This portrait is a rare example of direct diplomatic and cultural exchanges between the English and Mughal courts. This previously undiscovered portrait follows closely the well-known painting of Jahangir preferring a Sufi Shaykh to Kings painted by Bichitir and included in the St. Petersburg Muraqqa’. The St. Petersburg painting includes in the lower left hand corner a portrait of James I, executed in exactly the same fashion as ours (Milo Cleveland Beach, The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court, Washington D.C., 1981, pp.27,30,79,168, cat.no.17a).
The source for the image of James I arrived with Sir Thomas Roe who was the English Ambassador to the Mughal court from 1615-18. Roe noted specifically in his memoirs that a picture of James I was exhibited at court as a part of the New Year celebrations in 1616. Roe noted Jahangir’s passion for painting and asked for paintings to be sent as gifts to carry favour with the Emperor. It seems likely that a portrait of James I by the Flemish artist John De Critz the Elder (circa 1550-1642) reached the Mughal court via Roe. Our work closely follows a portrait by de Critz emulating everything down to the intricate texture of the costume of James I though inverting some of the colours of the original portrait. The detail of the gold cabinet in the lower right of our painting is also replicated in the stand underneath the throne of Jahangir in the St. Petersburg painting. Such is the similarity between the two Mughal paintings of James I that our painting can be attributed to the master, Bichitr.