Millon & Associés, 3 May 2018, lot 227
In collaboration with Anne-Sophie Joncoux-Pilorget and Marie-Christine David.
Sold 123 500€ (incl. Premium).
This 17th century Shah Nama was produced in India for the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1021H/ 1612. It was decorated with double page drawings (nim rang) of naturalistic and fantastic flowers, hunt scenes and two story related paintings, as well as a gol o bolbol most probably produced around the same time by a Persian artist.
The auction catalogue entry (in English) is available here.
The manuscript counts twelve paintings and drawings. All are attributable to Mughal India of the 17th century, except the one on the colophon. Only two have a direct connection with the text: folio 48a (Kay Qobad in throne listening musicians), and folio 289b (Rustam fallen in a mortal trap laid by his half-brother Shaghad). All the illustrations of Jahangir’s Shah Nameh but one can be attributed to Mughal India and are particularly interesting for their connection with other famous Indian paintings. Indeed, most of the drawings are close alternatives to isolated paintings and drawings kept in private collections.
For instance, the nim rang double-page of flowers and insects (f. 233b-234a) is directly linked to two double-pages of the St Petersburg album. Both pages of Jahangir’s Shah Nameh show a flowering acacia tree and what appears to be a yellow hibiscus tree on one page and a colorful “morning glory” on the other, also fro the St Petersburg album. The acacias trees have been attributed to Mansûr (active between 1590-1624), recognized by Jahangir as one of the most talented painter of his workshop and who was actively working for the emperor when this manuscript was produced. The upper parts have been painted by Muhammad Baqir (who extended in height the paintings arrived from India after Delhi’s sack by Nadir Shah in 1747). It is probable that Muhammad Baqir reproduced a design that already existed.
While the reduced number of paintings related to the text can be surprising, the presence of floral designs – naturalistic and fantastic – relates to the interest of the emperor for botany and natural science in general. All his life, Jahangir displayed a great passion for nature, often showed in his memoirs, the Tuzuk-e Jahangiri by vivid descriptions of flowers and animals. The inclusion of floral designs linked to Mansur in this early manuscript confirms the interest of the emperor and his keen eye as a connoisseur. Finally, the existence of this manuscript and the nim rang drawings within tends to confirm the idea that artists of the imperial workshop did not hesitate to
reproduce traditional Persian or Turkish decorative designs on different supports. It therefore constitutes an important landmark in the history of Mughal manuscripts and artistic practices.