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The dying 'Inayat Khan

December 31, 1617
Mirza Firuz Shah
Jahangir 1605–1627

The dying 'Inayat Khan



A Mughal miniature Jahanghir Period 1618 AD. This chill and moving study of a dying courtier is one of the most famous of all Mughal portraits. Wasted by his opium addiction and alcoholism, "lnayat Khan was brought before Jahangir to obtain leave to journey to Agra, on the day before his death. The Emperor was both appalled and fascinated by his condition. He described the occasion in his memoirs: On this day news came of the death of 'Inayat Khan. He was one of my intimate attendants. As he was addicted to opium, and when he had the chance, to drinking as well, by degrees he became maddened with wine. As he was weakly built, he took more than he could digest, and was attacked by the disease of diarrhoea, and in this weak state he two or three times fainted. By my order Hakim Rukna applied remedies, but whatever methods were resorted to gave no profit .They put him into a palanquin and brought him. He appeared so low and weak that I was astonished. 'He was skin drawn over bones'. Or rather his bones, too, had dissolved. Though painters have striven much in drawing an emaciated face, yet I have never seen anything like this, nor even approaching it. Good God, can a son of man come to such a shape and fashion? As it was a very extraordinary case I directed painters to take his portrait. The artist too was clearly moved by the scene of human extremity. This painting and the preparatory brush-drawing in Boston, even starker in its rendering of the debilitated physique, have been attrib used by Prof. S. C. Welch to the master Govardhan. Both pictures in different ways convey the same intense pathos. Here the subdued white, grey and tan tones of the interior complement the deadened colours of the cushions, garments and coverlet. The background composition, with a palely insubstantial carpet and bottles in niches and a thin decorative arabesque panel acting as counter-balance, resembles a washed-out Mondrian in its rectangular formality. Shading round the looming silhouettes of the cushions and the wall and niche surrounds give them a shimmering, phantasmagoric quality. The dominant image remains the emaciated pallour of 'Inayat Khan's face, torso and hands. His wintry blue eye (reflecting the eau-de-nil cushion) stares in profile, like a courtier still at attention before the Emperor, yet also with the poignant fixity of ultimate resignation. Jahanghir was fascinated by the reality around him. Curious by nature, he would carry his painters with him on his sojourns. If he came across any unusual thing, he would ask the painters to paint it. Inayat Khan's condition shocked Jahanghir. Hence this painting. Inayat Khan was one of jahangir's intimate attendants. Later in life he became addicted to opium and wine. His health deteriorated. He wanted the royal permission so that he could go back to Agra. When Jahangir saw his condition, he was horrified. He asked himself "Good God, can a son of man come to such a shape and fashion?" But Jahangir did not learn any lesson. He himself became an opium addict later in life. He too died of opium addiction. Beginning with Jahangir period, the painters moved away from stylization to realism. Painters like Bachitra specialized in portraiture. Jahangir emphasised realism in art. This tendecy would reach its climax under Shah Jahan. Under Jahangir, Indian art took a u-turn. ? To Read More Visit This Book Link Mughal Library

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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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