This fine portrait depicts the Emperor Shah Jahan. A portrait of the young Prince by the court artist Abu al-Hasan depicts Shah Jahan (then still known by his birth name, Prince Khurram) at the age of 25 (Amin Jaffer (ed.), Beyond Extravagance. A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels, New York, 2013, pp.364-65). As in our portrait, Abu al-Hasan’s depiction of Shah Jahan shows him without the beard which became a distinctive feature of later portraits. It is likely that our painting depicts him at a similar young age.
A portrait from the Shah Jahan album and now in the Metropolitan Museum depicts Shah Jahan and his son Prince Dara Shikoh toying with jewels (MMA 18.104.22.168v; Stuart Cary Welch, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie L. Swietochowski and Wheeler M. Thackston, The Emperors’ Album. Images of Mughal India, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1987, no.55, pp.194-95). Painted by Nanha in around 1620, the Metropolitan depiction of Shah Jahan is startlingly similar to ours – from the distinctive double curl at the sideburns to the spinel and pearls that hang around his neck and the elegant sash with alternating cartouches and quatrefoils that falls from his waist. The two portraits are so close that is likely that they were painted at similar period, and perhaps that the artist of one was familiar with the work of the other.