This leaf comes from the so-called 'Ardeshir Album' probably assembled during the reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-1748). The album was dispersed at auction at Sotheby's in the early 1970s. A number of the paintings in that album showed signs of having been taken from other albums before being remounted as they are now. The most important of the miniatures, including that offered here, date from the Shah Jahan period (1628-58). This miniature depicts Mian Mir (or Shah Mir), who was a Muslim saint who spent most of his life in Lahore where he died in 1635. Here he sits at the head of the group, leaning against a green cushion. His two disciples sit to his side. Opposite them are three bearded disciples including Mullah Shah - who was a chief disciple of Mian Mir and the spiritual guide to Dara Shikoh (the eldest son of Shah Jahan) - at the centre, depicted raising his right hand. Another miniature of the same subject with the two holy men in conversation with Dara Shikoh and attributed later to La'lchand, is in the Vever Collection (Glenn D. Lowry, A Jeweler's Eye. Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection, Washington D.C., 1988, no.72, pp.208-09). Another folio from the Ardeshir album, also by La'lchand and depicting a similar subject was sold at Sotheby's, London, 15 October 2003, lot 36.
La'lchand was a court artist of Shah Jahan, within whose reign most of his work falls. His major works include a miniature in the Windsor Padshahnama (f.70r, Milo Cleveland Beach and Ebba Koch, King of the World, exhibition catalogue, London, 1997, p.216); a depiction of "Jahangir giving books to Sheikhs" from a Jahangirnama which is attributed to him and was later incorporated into the St. Petersburg Muraqqa (Milo Cleveland Beach, The Imperial Image. Paintings for the Mughal Court, exhibition catalogue, Washington D.C., 1981, no.17d, p.185); a miniature signed by him depicting the "Qadi of Hamdadan in a Drunken Sate" from a Gulistan of Sa'di (Abolala Soudavar, Art of the Persian Courts. Selections from the Art and History Trust Collection, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1992, no.136e, p.338); and two portraits of Qilich Khan Turani and Sayyid Abu'l-Muzaffar Khan, Khan-Jahan Barha from the Kevorkian Album (Stuart Cary Welch, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie L. Swietochowski and Wheeler M. Thackston, The Emperor's Album. Images of Mughal India, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1987, no.70, pp.224 and 226). Other portraits by La'lchand of noblemen and courtly figures are in the Minto album (Chester Beatty Library and Victoria and Albert Museum).
In their discussion of the Windsor Padshahnama, Beach and Koch describe the borders of the Ardeshir album as the closest equivalent to those on that famous manuscript (Beach and Koch, op.cit., fig.25, p.128). Another miniature with a very similar border is that of "Shah Jahan Examining the Royal Seal" in the Aga Khan Collection (published in Amina Okada, Indian Miniatures of the Mughal Court, New York, 1992, no.217, pp.175 and 183). The Aga Khan miniature was painted by Abu'l Hasan Nadir al-Zaman, Jahangir's favorite artist, to commemorate Shah Jahan's accession to the throne in 1628 and probably to try to draw the new Emperor's attention to his talents. Both of these royal commissions indicate that the borders of this quality were only used for the most important paintings.