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Dara Shikoh album

Image of a Prince in Iranian Costume Muhammad Khan

A Prince in Iranian Costume by Muhammad Khan
British Library Add. Or. MS 3129, f.21v
Copyright © The British Library Board
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This manuscript is a fine example of Moghul mastery of painting and calligraphy and dates from the 17th century.

The Dara Shikoh album is a collection of paintings and calligraphy assembled during the 1630s by Dara Shikoh (1615-59), the eldest son of the Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-58, the builder of the Taj Mahal), and presented to his wife Nadira Banu Begum in 1641-42.

The album follows the typical Moghul album format and has alternate openings of pairs of calligraphic specimens and paintings, all mounted within gold-painted borders, and is bound in tooled and gilt covers. It is one of the few Moghul albums to have survived almost complete.

Dara Shikoh himself was executed in 1659 by his younger brother Aurangzib, who had emerged victorious in the wars waged between Shah Jahan's four sons. After Nadira Banu's death, the album was taken into the royal library and the inscriptions connecting it with Dara Shikoh were deliberately, but fortunately not completely, erased. One painting in the album is signed and dated by the artist Muhammad Khan AH 1043 (or AD 1633-1634).

The young man wearing the elaborate turban favoured in the Iranian court of Isfahan is pouring wine from a Moghul jewelled gold flask into a similarly ornamented cup.

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