RECTO WITH A PORTRAIT OF JAI SINGH KACHHAWA OF AMBER, VERSO WITH A NASTA'LIQ QUATRAIN FROM THE BUSTAN OF SA'DI WRITTEN BY MIR 'ALI
RECTO WITH A PORTRAIT OF JAI SINGH KACHHAWA OF AMBER, VERSO WITH A NASTA'LIQ QUATRAIN FROM THE BUSTAN OF SA'DI WRITTEN BY MIR 'ALI
RECTO WITH A PORTRAIT OF JAI SINGH KACHHAWA OF AMBER, VERSO WITH A NASTA'LIQ QUATRAIN FROM THE BUSTAN OF SA'DI WRITTEN BY MIR 'ALI
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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM KELLY SIMPSONWilliam Kelly Simpson was born in Manhattan in 1928. His father, William F. Simpson, was an influential civic leader who served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Chairman of the New York County Republican Committee; and in 1940 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Professor Simpson attended Manhattan’s Buckley School and the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Presaging a decades-long association with Yale, the future Professor Simpson graduated from Yale College in 1947 with a degree in English, and obtained his masters degree in New Haven in 1948. That same year, he made his initial foray into Egyptology, when curators W.C. Hayes and Ambrose Lansing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired the graduate as a Curatorial Assistant in the Egyptian Department. Imbued with an insatiable curiosity and precocious mind, Professor Simpson penned his first Egyptological article—an exploration of a Fourth Dynasty portrait head—at just twenty-one years old. That piece, published in the Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, heralded a remarkable scholarly output, with more than 130 articles and twenty books written throughout his lifetime.Professor Simpson’s position within the Met’s Egyptian Department forever changed the trajectory of his life and, indeed, the wider field of Egyptology. It was during his time at the Met that Professor Simpson participated in his first archaeological expedition—an excavation in Iraq sponsored by the British School of Archaeology—and decided to pursue graduate work in Egyptology. In the early 1950s, the young scholar commuted between his work in New York and his studies at Yale, all while serving in the 101st Armed Calvary of the New York National Guard. In June 1953, Professor Simpson married Marilyn Milton, a Sarah Lawrence graduate and granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.Professor Simpson studied for his doctorate under the noted Egyptologist Ludlow Bull, and wrote his dissertation on the excavation of the pyramid of Amenemhat I. It was not until obtaining his Ph.D. in 1954, however, that Professor Simpson made his first trek to Egypt, after being awarded a prestigious Fulbright research fellowship. For two years, Professor Simpson led excavation teams at the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur and at Mitrahineh. Upon returning to the United States, he was immediately offered a fellowship at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and in 1958 was appointed Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Yale. During Professor Simpson’s forty-six years in academia, he rose to Associate Professor, Professor, and Chair of Yale’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature; was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Humanities; and positioned Yale as one of the foremost centers for Egyptology. Among his many archaeological projects in Egypt were the famed Pennsylvania-Yale Expeditions recording New Kingdom tombs and Meroitic cemeteries, the 1960s UNESCO campaign to rescue Nubian monuments threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam, and excavations at the Giza Pyramids and sites in Nubia. “[Professor Simpson] served the monuments of Egypt… with unstinting passion,” noted fellow scholar Hussein Bassir. “He served as a major channel between Egypt and the US,” Bassir added, “to the benefit of the two nations and the archaeological and cultural ties between the two countries.” TWO PREVIOUSLY UNRECORDED FOLIOS FROM THE LATE SHAH JAHAN ALBUMTHE ALBUMThe ‘Late Shah Jahan Album’ was so called because it was compiled during the last decade of Shah Jahan’s reign, between 1650 and 1658. The paintings in the album date from about 1620 to 1657, with an emphasis on single standing portraits of Mughal dignitaries. The associated calligraphic folios are by the well-known 16th century Iranian calligrapher Mir ‘Ali, most of them signed by him. The unsigned ones are also thought to be the work of Mir ‘Ali, with the exception of a single folio which is signed by Sultan ‘Ali Mashhadi. The album is assumed to have been part of the loot taken by Nadir Shah from Delhi in 1739. In the late 19th century it was taken to Russia by a brother of Nasir al-Din Shah, the Qajar ruler of Iran, and sold to an Armenian dealer who subsequently brought it to Paris in 1909 and sold it to the French dealer, Georges Demotte. It was dispersed in Paris after Demotte split many of the folios separating the paintings from their associated calligraphic sides. For a detailed discussion of the album, see Elaine Wright (ed.), Muraqqa’, Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Alexandria 2008, pp.106-139. For a list of known folios from the Late Shah Jahan Album, see E. Wright (ed.), op. cit., App.3, pp.462-466.CALLIGRAPHYThe calligraphy on both our Late Shah Jahan Album folios is signed al-muthnib ‘Ali , probably referring to Mir 'Ali al-Katib (1465-1544 AD). Mir ‘Ali is often mentioned by Safavid sources as amongst the most important nasta'liq calligraphers of all time. Various authorities attribute the codifying of the aesthetic rules of nasta'liq script to him. Born in Herat circa 1476, he was later taken to Bukhara by the Shaybanid ruler 'Ubaydullah Khan after his capture of Herat in AH 935/1528-29 AD (Mehdi Bayani, Ahval va Asar-eKhosh-Nevisan , vol. II, Tehran 1346 sh., p.494). His recorded works are dated between AH 914/1508-09 AD and AH 951/1544-45 AD. The works of leading Persian calligraphers were particularly prized at the Mughal court and Mir ‘Ali was amongst those particularly admired by Jahangir. A large number of qit’as signed by him found their way into important Mughal albums, and he is the calligrapher responsible for most of the specimens in the Late Shah Jahan Album. It is possible that they were brought to the Mughal court by way of his son Muhammad Baqir who emigrated to India and was mentioned by Abu’l Fazl’s in his Ain-i Akbari (Islamic Calligraphy, 1998, pp.170-171, no.54,). A comparable folio from a royal album made for Shah Jahan, probably the Late Shah Jahan Album, with floral margins surrounding a calligraphic panel signed by Mir ‘Ali, sold in these Rooms, 9 October 2014, lot 136.THE BORDERSThe most distinctive feature of the Late Shah Jahan Album are the seated and standing figures in the borders surrounding the central paintings. The usual format for the border figures surrounding non-royal Mughal subjects, like our portraits, is three standing figures in the long outer border and single or pairs of figures seated in the upper and lower borders. If the subject of the central painting has a military association, the standing border figures are often depicted carrying various types of arms. The seated figures in the upper and lower borders are either conversing, reading, playing musical instruments, or examining collections of jewels and arms. The border figures are attendants of the main subject and represent his wealth or military prestige. The inner narrow borders of the folios are usually peach in colour with gold scrolling floral motifs. On the other side of the folios, the borders surrounding the panels of calligraphy comprise either arabesques or flowering plants as is the case with our folios in the two lots offered here. Albums made for the Emperor Shah Jahan and his father Jahangir are celebrated for the refined quality of the border decoration. The borders paid tribute to the royal patrons' growing concern with the natural world - they actively encouraged artists of their ateliers to study and observe all aspects of it. The European herbaria of the early 17th century that were bought into the Mughal court by Jesuit missionaries provided ample inspiration. Under Jahangir (r.1604-28) artists such as Manohar and Mansur were encouraged to record animals, plants and birds with great attention to detail. It is claimed that in Jahangir's Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, more than one hundred flower paintings were done by the artist Mansur in Kashmir alone (Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B.N. Goswamy (eds.), Masters of Indian Painting, vol. I, exhibition catalogue, New York and Zurich, 2011, p.257). Under Shah Jahan, this keen observation was applied to the borders of albums, where artists demonstrated the great precision and naturalism with which they had become practiced.A number of albums with closely related floral borders were produced under the patronage of Shah Jahan. These include the Minto, Wantage and Kevorkian albums – all now identified by the names of former Western owners. In the Late Shah Jahan Album, the calligraphic borders are usually floral, and certainly relate closely to the others mentioned above. In addition, particular floral species are repeated on a single border unlike the Minto, Wantage and Kevorkian albums, where each type of flower is used only once (Elaine Wright (ed.), op. cit, pp.115-16).Other folios with portraits from the album have sold more recently at auction. A Late Shah Jahan page, probably depicting Shah Shuja’, sold in these Rooms, 10 June 2015, lot 10. A portrait of Maharana Karan Singh of Mewar sold at Sotheby’s Paris, 6 July 2017, lot 85.A LEAF FROM THE LATE SHAH JAHAN ALBUM
RECTO WITH A PORTRAIT OF JAI SINGH KACHHAWA OF AMBER, VERSO WITH A NASTA'LIQ QUATRAIN FROM THE BUSTAN OF SA'DI WRITTEN BY MIR 'ALI

THE PAINTING ATTRIBUTED TO PAYAG, MUGHAL INDIA, CIRCA 1640-45; THE CALLIGRAPHY SIGNED BY MIR 'ALI, HERAT, AFGHANISTAN, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY

Details
RECTO WITH A PORTRAIT OF JAI SINGH KACHHAWA OF AMBER, VERSO WITH A NASTA'LIQ QUATRAIN FROM THE BUSTAN OF SA'DI WRITTEN BY MIR 'ALI
THE PAINTING ATTRIBUTED TO PAYAG, MUGHAL INDIA, CIRCA 1640-45; THE CALLIGRAPHY SIGNED BY MIR 'ALI, HERAT, AFGHANISTAN, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY
Opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper, recto an extremely sensitively observed portrait on plain ground, the margins with mostly military figures surrounded by gold floral sprays, verso with four very strong diagonal lines of nasta'liq from the Bustan of Sa'di, on bold scrolling golden floral design, overpainted with fine floral illumination on gold ground, fully illuminated spandrels around the title upper right and the signature kataba al-'abd al-mudhib Mir 'Ali al-Katib, illuminated margins, on buff leaf with elegant floral sprays, glazed each side and framed
Painting 8 ½ x 4 7/8in. (21.6 x 12.4cm.); calligraphy 5 ¾ x 3 ¼in. (14.6 x 8.6cm.); folio 15 x 10 ½in. (38.1 x 26.7cm.)
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Sale room notice
The identification of the figure as Mirza Jai Singh of Amber is further strengthened by the article “A Mughal Icon Reconsidered”, Catherine Glynn and Ellen Smart, Artibus Asiae, Volume 15, No. 1/2, 1997, pp. 5-15.

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Lot Essay

This a portrait of Mirza Raja Jai Singh Kachhwaha of Amber (r.1621-67), whose long career consisted of alternating stints in the Deccan, in Mughal campaigns at Qandahar and Kabul, and at home at Amber. Serving in the Deccan first as a young prince alongside Sultan Parwiz, he returned to the region periodically throughout the reign of Shah Jahan. In the 1630s, he was sent to lay waste to the territories of Nizam al-Mulk around Ahmadnagar and those of the ‘Adil Shahis at Bijapur, and later assisted Khan Zaman, who was given the fief of Daulatabad and Ahmadnagar. He accompanied Khan Dawran to the Deccan for two years in the mid-1640s. Jai Singh eventually became a stout supporter of Prince Aurangzeb during the struggles for succession. Within a few years of the latter’s accession in 1658, Jai Singh was given the title of Viceroy of the Deccan, and was asked to fight there once more. Stationed at Aurangabad, he took on the Maratha leader Shivaji, and negotiated his submission on terms favourable to the Mughals. Nonetheless, when Shivaji escaped, avoiding murder at the hands of the treacherous Mughals, Aurangzeb, now Emperor ‘Alamgir, blamed Jai Singh and had him poisoned. At news of the raja’s subsequent death in Burhanpur the emperor scandalously declared it to be his greatest joy.

Jai Singh appears as a much younger man in an inscribed illustration, circa 1630, from the Windsor Padshahnama (50b; M.C. Beach, E. Koch, King of the World, The Padshahnama, An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, London 1997, pl.10). Dressed in a purple jama and orange turban, he appears in the lower left section of the painting just above the golden railing. Safdar Khan, whose portrait is the following lot in the sale, can be identified in a brown and white striped jama on the lower right section in the same painting. Both figures were important dignitaries in the service of Shah Jahan. Jai Singh is also recognisable in another illustration from the Windsor Padshahnama circa 1640, ten years later, in a yellow jama and striped trousers at the bottom of the painting (f.147b; M.C. Beach, E. Koch, op. cit., pl.32). Historical circumstances and the comparatively heavier and older face of Jai Singh support a date in the early 1640s for our portrait. There is another comparable portrait drawing of him in the Chester Beatty Library, done in Amber a few years after ours, circa 1645-50, where he sits on a throne handing a jewelled sarpech to his son, Kunwar Ram Singh (48.1; Linda York Leach, London, Mughal and other Indian Paintings, Volume II, London, 1995, no.10.18, pp.979 and 981).

Our portrait has been attributed to the Mughal artist Payag who was active in the imperial atelier from around 1591 until 1658, the end of Shah Jahan’s reign. The distinguishing feature of this portrait is the fleshy and remarkably voluminous rendering of the head, which is thrust forward from the background by the dark contour line, especially from the lips to the throat. This is the hallmark of Payag, who often uses chiaroscuro modelling, but not in this formal portrait where atmospheric effects would not be appropriate. The shape and articulation of the hands correspond closely to that feature in Payag’s portrait of Islam Khan Mashhadi painted in circa 1640, also from the Late Shah Jahan Album (MMA 55.121.26; M.C. Beach, The Art of India and Pakistan, Durham, N.C., 1985, no.22, pp.27,37, ill.pl.III). There are also many comparable figures in plate 39 of the Windsor Padshahnama which is signed by Payag and dated to circa 1640 (f.195b; M.C. Beach, E. Koch, op. cit., pl.39). In particular, the figure in blue in the lower left corner, the figure holding a staff in the bottom centre, and the figure behind the Ethiopian in the lower right. The corpulent figure in the lower left-centre edge wears a jama that is almost identical in colour and pattern. Above is a hint of the cloud-streaked sky that Payag often uses.

The rendition of the face bears a strong resemblance to the central figure in a battle scene associated by some historians with the siege of Qandahar, from a Padshahnama manuscript, again attributed to Payag, circa 1640. The chief nobleman in the battle scene, initially thought to be Dara Shikoh by S.C. Welch, seems to be a Rajput, as his jama is tied under his left arm in Hindu fashion (M.C. Beach, The Grand Mogul, Imperial Painting in India 1600-1660, Williamstown, 1978, no. 25, pp.81-82).

For a list of works inscribed by and attributed to Payag, see M.C. Beach, E. Fischer and B.N. Goswamy (ed.), Masters of Indian Painting 1100-1650, Zurich, 2011, pp. 322-323.

The calligraphy on the reverse comprises verses from the Bustan of Sa‘di and is signed by the Safavid master calligrapher Mir ‘Ali, katabahu al-’abd al-mudhnib mir ’ali al-katib, “The sinful slave Mir ‘Ali al-Katib wrote it”.


We would like to thank John Seyller for his assistance with cataloguing this lot.

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