Saru Taqi, a Safavid courtier

Artist: Bishandas (active 1590-1640)
Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Jahangir, ca. 1618
Mughal Court
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H x W: 21.6 x 14.3 cm (8 1/2 x 5 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf with painting

India, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), portrait, Reign of Jahangir (1605 - 1627)

From prior to 1936
Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl (1880-1936), acquired prior to 1936 [1]

To 1997
Sophia Riefstahl, New Bedford, MA, by descent, to 1997 [2]

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Sophia Riefstahl in 1997


[1] According to Curatorial Note 4, Vidya Dehejia, December 10, 1997, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Sophia Riefstahl
Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl 1880-1936


An inscription in the lower left corner of the painting reads, "in the likeness of Saru Taqi."


The signature of the artist is contained in the little gold cartouche to the right of the nobleman.


This painting is a relatively rare portrait of an important Safavid historical figure by a celebrated Mughal painter. The painting may have been based on direct observation or on a sketch conceived during Bishan Das' visit to Iran between 1613-19 with a Mughal delegation from Jahangir's court. The signature of the artist is contained in the little gold cartouche to the right of the nobleman.

Considered one of the most influential 17th-century Safavid politicians, courtiers, and patrons of architecture, Mirza Muhammad Taqi, known as Mirza Taqi or Saru Taqi ("Taqi of the fair hair"), a eunuch, was born ca. 1579 in Tabriz.  He  joined the army and quickly moved up the ranks. In 1616, Shah Abbas (r. 1588-1629) appointed him governor of Mazandaran, where he was entrusted with the construction of several royal palaces, roads, and bridges. In 1634, Shah Abbas' successor, Shah Safi (1629-42), named Saru Taqi grand vizer--a position he held until his murder in 1645.

Known for his administrative skills and incorruptibility, Saru Taqi established a highly efficient administrative system and succeeded in raising state revenues to levels never known before in Iran. In the course of time, however, he became rigid and autocratic; his behavior earned him not only numerous enemies but it also worked against the interest of the state. For instance, Saru Taqi's reluctance in 1638 to renew a tax concession meant that the governor Qandahar placed himself and the province under the jurisdiction of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.

(See F1984.43 for one of Bishan Das' portraits of a female subject).

Published References
  • Hans van Santen. Van Alkmaarse wees tot commandeur van de VOC. Het rijke leven van Wollebrant Geleynssen de Jongh, 1596-1674. Netherlands, January 2022. Pg. 114.
  • Masters of Indian Painting. Exh. cat. Zurich. vol. 1: pp. 259-278, fig. 9.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd ed. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 37, pp. 165-6.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 186-187.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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