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A Gathering of Princes

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A Gathering of Princes

Bhawani Das, Indian, b. 17th century

Creation date: ca. 1710
Creation place: India

Other Information

Type: Watercolor Painting
Medium and Support: Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, mounted as an album page
Credit Line: Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
Accession Number: 1990.365
State/Province: Delhi
Dimensions: 11 7/8 in. x 7 23/32 in. (30.2 cm x 19.6 cm)

Provenance

Stephen Tennant, London, England ( - July 5, 1965)

Freemantle Collection, London? ( - )

Sotheby's, London, England (July 5, 1965 - July 5, 1965)

T. Hughes, London, England (July 5, 1965 - July 5, 1965)

Edwin Binney 3rd, San Diego, California (July 5, 1965 - August 27, 1990)

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (August 27, 1990 - )

Label Copy

The Great Mughals: Power and Patronage (2002-3)
Aurangzeb (Ornament of the Throne), 1618-1707

SIX PRINCES ON A TERRACE
Bhawani Das
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, ca. 1680
Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
1990:365

SUBJECT
Seated on gem-studded thrones with golden footrests, six princes face one another in a hieratic array. Above the two at the top is a canopy with the imperial Mughal insignia of birds of paradise and a sun. The two princes at the top are identified by inscription as Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest and most beloved son, and Shah Shuja, his second son. They do not resemble other known depictions of these two sons of Shah Jahan, but, by 1680, they had both been dead for more than a decade. Below these two, on the left in a purple robe is Muhammad ‘Azam Shah, one of Aurangzeb’s sons who served as the governor of Gujarat. Opposite him is Aurangzeb, recognizable by his deep set eyes. The two smaller figures are not identified.

STYLE
The individuals are rigidly arrayed in profile, with no real engagement, despite the gesture of discussion seen in the top four figures. The attitudes are nearly identical, but formal symmetry has dictated that the figures on the left side of the picture gesture with their left hands, unlikely in a culture where the right hand is favored. The two top figures are slightly larger than the next two who are larger than the two below them. Was it symmetry alone that required two vases to be shown rather than one? The picture is signed on the foot of the left of two blue-and-white vases by an otherwise unknown artist. The quality of the painting is very high with patterns, jewels, and even the landscapes on the Chinese blue-and-white vases carefully rendered. Contrary to the facts of history, this painting shows Aurangzeb taking his place below his elder brothers. Aurangzeb claimed he never sought the throne and wished only a life of piety and reclusion. He justified his challenge to Dara Shikoh whom he eventually had murdered on the grounds that his free-thinking elder brother was “chief of the atheists.” Aurangzeb, as a good Muslim, could not stand by and let such an affront to God dishonor the Mughal lineage.


The princes are seated in gem-studded gold chairs with footrests, beneath a brocade canopy with the imperial Mughal insignia of birds of paradise and a sun. This is a puzzling picture, for it is of great quality, signed (on the foot of the left vase) by an otherwise unknown artist, undoubtedly of Mughal princes, but all cannot yet be successfully identified. The two at the top are identified in an inscription as Dara Shikoh and Shah Shujah, both of whom are portrayed in the Celebration of Shah Jahan's Birthday. Neither figrue in Bhawani Das's painting looks convincingly like the sons in 'Abid's work, but by 1680 Dara Shikoh and Shah Shujah had been dead for more than a decade.
The man in purple on the left is Muhammad 'Azam Shah, one of Aurangzeb's sons who was born in 1653 and served as the governor of Gujarat.

October 2005
Domains of Wonder
Formal portraits of Mughal princes are arranged so that the highest in rank are at the back beneath the canopy, and the youngest are smaller in size towards the front of the picture plane. Mughal painting under Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707), shown in yellow as a prince, became formal and stiff, but the imperial artists successfully convey the finery and wealth of the Mughal court. The miniscule artist's signature appears at the bottom of one of the blue-and-white Chinese vases.

Last Updated: 9/5/2017

Exhibition

This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Islamic Art from the Collection of Edwin Binney 3rd Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions Service , 10/1/1966 - 10/19/1969

Islamic Art Across the World Indiana University Art Museum , 6/18/1970 - 10/1/1970

The Mughal and Deccani Schools: Indian Miniature Painting from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd The Portland Art Association , 12/2/1973 - 3/7/1976

Romance of the Taj Mahal Los Angeles County Museum of Art , 12/17/1989 - 3/17/1991

Myths, Monsters, Maharajas: Introducing the Binney Collection San Diego Museum of Art , 11/23/1991 - 1/26/1992

The Great Mughals: Power and Patronage , 3/13/2003 - 9/1/2003

Domains of Wonder: Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting San Diego Museum of Art , 10/22/2005 - 1/27/2008

Master Painters of India, 1100-1900 , 9/26/2011 - 1/8/2012

Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857 Asia Society , 2/7/2012 - 5/6/2012

Bibliography

This object has the following bibliographic references:

Dr. Edwin Binney, 3rd. The Mughal and Deccani Schools Portland Art Museum. Portland, Oregon, 1973
Page Number: 89, 93, Figure Number: 68

Richard Ettinghausen. Islamic Art from the Collection of Edwin Binney 3rd Smithsonian Institution. Washington, District of Columbia, 1966
Page Number: 11

Richard Ettinghausen. Islamic Art from the Collection of Edwin Binney 3rd Smithsonian Institution. Washington, District of Columbia, 1966
Page Number: no. 75, Figure Number: 75

Theodore Robert Bowie. Islamic Art from Across the World Indiana University Art Museum. Bloomington, Indiana, 1970
Page Number: 39, no. 141

Dr. Armin Jaffer. Furniture from British India and Ceylon: V&A Publications. London, England, 2001
Page Number: 114, Figure Number: 41

Catalogue of Fine Western & Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, Sotheby & Co.. London, England, July 5, 1965
Page Number: 15, Lot no. 55

Barbara Schmitz. After the Great Mughals: Painting in Delhi and the Regional Courts in 18th and the 19th Centuries Marg Publications. Mumbai, India, June 2002
Page Number: 1, Figure Number: 1

Dr. Joseph M. Dye, III. The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond, Virginia, 2001
Page Number: 250 note 3

Dr. Ellen S. Smart. Intimate Worlds: Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2001
Page Number: 120 note 4

Pratapaditya Pal. Court Paintings of India: Navin Kumar. New York, New York, 1983
Page Number: 47, 321 note 33

Pratapaditya Pal. Romance of the Taj Mahal Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, California, 1989
Page Number: 27, 32, Figure Number: 17

Annemarie Schimmel. The Empire of the Great Mughals: Reaktion Book Ltd. London, England, 2004
Page Number: 49, 343-344, Figure Number: 14

Brijinder Nath Goswamy and Dr. Caron Smith. Domains of Wonder: San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 2005
Page Number: 154, 155, Figure Number: 61

Islamic & Indian Art: Bonhams. London, England, October 25, 2007
Page Number: 58

Ms. Nancy Blume and Ms. Amy Herman. The Journal of Aesthetic Education University of Illinois Press. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, Summer 2008
Page Number: 94, 95, Figure Number: 4

Dr. Milo Cleveland Beach and Brijinder Nath Goswamy. Masters of Indian Painting: 1100-1650 Artibus Asiae Publishers. Zurich, 2011
Page Number: 532, Figure Number: fig. 2, p. 535

Dalrymple, William and Sharma, Yuthika. Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857 Asia Society Museum. New York, 2012
Page Number: 5, Figure Number: fig. 3

John Guy and Britschgi, Jorrit. Wonder of the Age The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011
Page Number: 141, Figure Number: 71

Marks

Inscription, Top center: shah shuja' shahzada dara shukoh shahzada; aurangzeb; murad bahhsh; bahadur shah; 'azam shah ["The prince Shah Shuja': the prince Dara Shukoh; Aurangzeb; Murad Bakshsh; Bahadur Shah; 'Azam Shah"]

Inscription, On front: painted by Bhawanidas

Inscription, On reverse:


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