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Drawing Portrays of Shah Jahan

September 30, 1656
Internet Archive
Shah Jahan 1627–1658

Drawing Portrays of Shah Jahan



Shah Jahan, c. 1656-1661. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669). Pen and brown ink and brush and brown wash; sheet: 22.5 x 17.1 cm (8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in.); secondary support: 27.6 x 22.4 cm (10 7/8 x 8 13/16 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1978.38 Rembrandt’s drawing portrays Shah Jahan, the ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1628-58.

It is one of twenty-three drawings that Rembrandt made after Indian miniatures, which he had very likely studied in an album then in Holland. By the 18th century, the album had been dismantled, and the model for this drawing now resides at the Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna. Rembrandt imposed his characteristic realist tendencies on a more detailed, formal, and stylized model, bringing the shah to life with especially fine pen strokes on the face and shoes mixed with evanescent brown ink washes around the figure that introduce a dynamic interplay of light, shade, and figure. 

Above the shah’s head, he scratched away parts of the ink and paper to create a nimbus shape that frames the profile. His meticulous technique and use of a rare and expensive Japanese paper suggest that he regarded his drawings after Mughal paintings as exceptional. Rembrandt drew a number of copies after Indian miniature paintings, and he based this sheet on a contemporary work of the Mughal school showing the emperor Shah Jahan (ruled 1628-58). The technique of this work is especially interesting because the artist used a Japanese paper, whose surface absorbs the


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

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