The Wantage Album of the Victoria and Albert Museum comprises thirty-three folios. They were bought in London in 1867-68 by Baron Overstone, who presented them to his daughter, the Hon. Harriet Lindsay, later Lady Wantage, on the occasion of her 31st birthday. She bequeathed them to the V&A in 1921. Moti Chandra, in 1949, concluded that only fourteen folios were 17th century Mughal miniatures. So fine were these fourteen folios that it was suggested that they were drawn from the same large pool of folios from which the Minto and Kevorkian folios came. A study produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Kevorkian Album in 1987 and a similar undertaking at the Chester Beatty agreed that a larger number of albums had provided the folios for the later Minto, Kevorkian and Wantage assemblages (Elaine Wright, Muraqqa'. Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Virginia, 2008, p.472).
The remaining nineteen folios were thought to be copies of 17th century works, probably produced in India circa 1800 (Wright, op.cit., p.85). The miniature here of the Emperor Jahangir enjoying the festival of Holi with his harem is most probably one of this second group of folios, produced for the Wantage album around 1800. It is a direct copy of a miniature in the Minto Album now in the Chester Beatty Library (CBL In 07A.4; Wright, op.cit., no. 41, pp.310-11). That miniature is attributed by Linda York Leach to Govardhan and is dated circa 1615-20 by her and later circa 1635-45 by Elaine Wright (Linda York Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings, Vol. I, London, 1995, no.3.14, pp.385-85).
Our miniature is inscribed with the name Siva Das, an artist known to have worked on several Akbari manuscripts from around the mid-1580s to 1598. His name appears about twenty years later on a Jahangari portrait depicting Mir Jumla in the Wantage Album, dated circa 1618. This suggests that the, very accomplished, artist who produced our miniature was familiar with the body of folios incorporated in both the Minto and Wantage Albums and directly copied features of both to use in his work. The calligraphy, signed by Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi, would have been integrated into the album page when it was mounted for inclusion in the Wantage Album.
Born around 1437-38, Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi was considered the first among equals by calligraphers of the period. In his famous treatise, Qadi Ahmad describes his writings as the sun among other planets. He was active at the court of Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara in Herat and died on 10 Rabi' I AH 926/2 March 150 AD (V. Minorsky, Calligraphers and Painters, A Treatise by Qadi Ahmad, son of Mir Munshi, Washington, 1959, pp. 101-103). A very similar calligraphy also in the Wantage album is published in Wright, op.cit., fig.35, p.85.