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Mughals on Hawking Party

A recent research on a 17th century painting reveals that the four figures in the painting are those of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his sons, reports Gitanjali Dang.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2007 01:53 IST
Gitanjali Dang

A recent research on a 17th century painting has revealed that the four figures in the painting are those of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his four sons, reports Gitanjali Dang.

Recent research on an old painting by the Dutch artist Willem Schellinks (1627 - 1678) has revealed that the four figures in the 17th-century hunting scene —hitherto known as A Hawking Party, an Extensive Landscape Beyond — are in fact those of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) and his four sons — Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh.

This discovery made by Richard Charlton-Jones results in the painting being an exceptionally rare western depiction of the Mughal leader — who reigned in India between 1628 and 1658. Schellinks accomplished three more paintings of Shah Jahan. One of these now hangs in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the second is part of the Musee Guimet collection in Paris; while the whereabouts of the third has remained a mystery since it was sold at Sotheby's in 1983.

Richard Charlton-Jones comments: "The painting intrigued me greatly and I began to wonder if it might perhaps have Indian rather than Turkish links. When we consulted with specialists at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, a comparison with their own Schellinks resulted in the confirmation of my suspicions."

Schellinks did not visit India in person, so his paintings of Shah Jahan were either commissioned by a patron who had been to the country, or else were derived from the Mughal miniatures that were in circulation in 17th-century Holland.

Asok Kumar Das, specialist Mughal painting and professor at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, says, "This is delightful. Although one is aware of other paintings by Schellinks' where he depicts the Mughal emperor, a new discovery only reinforces the fact that Mughal art was perceived unique. I haven't seen the new Schellinks' painting but from the richness of the earlier paintings, which are large format, one can say for certain that the album he received was from royal atelier."

These paradigms highlight that there was an exchange between the east and the west. “The greatest instance of this would have to be the collection of sketches and portraits done by Rembrandt. The Dutch master (1606 -1669) did almost two-dozen sketches and portrait,” adds Das.