Attributable to Muhammad Ali
Mughal India, c.1610; borders c1640
Opaque watercolour, gold and ink on paper
22 January - 13 April 1998
Supported by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
and Altajir World
The British Museum is privileged to show over 140 paintings and drawings of exceptional quality from Turkey, Iran and India, most of which have never before been exhibited in London, from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. They range in date from the early 14th century in Mongol (Il-Khanid) Iran to the early 20th century in Nathadwara, India. The Prince and Princess's collection of Persian paintings is one of the most important in private hands in the world. Having collected over a period of more than 40 years, they have selected works of the highest quality. This exhibition not only includes all the major periods of Iranian painting but also exceptionally fine and historically important Mughal paintings, a strong selection of Ottoman paintings, together with paintings from Rajput and 19th-century works produced for the British in India, called Company paintings.
During the 1970s and 1980s the Prince and Princess added to their collection pages from the renowned 16th-century Shahnama, or Book of Kings, produced at the court of Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76). One of these paintings, the Court of Gayumars, was reputed in a 16th-century text to have caused men to bow their heads with shame before its beauty.
Revealing the Mughal skill at portraiture, an audience scene from the Jahangirnama is the work of one of Emperor Jahangir's (r. 1605-27) two favourite artists, Abu'l Hasan, known as Nadir al-Zaman, the wonder of the age. It includes details rendered in minute perfection that shed light on the system of justice under Jahangir.
This exhibition provides a rare opportunity for visitors to see works of outstanding beauty and some of the most important documents from the history of Turkey, Iran and India. A fully illustrated catalogue by Sheila R. Canby accompanies the exhibition, available from the Museum shops price £40.