Hailing originally from central Asia, the Mughal dynasty dominated the political landscape of the Indian subcontinent for three centuries, from the early sixteenth until the middle of the nineteenth century. This Muslim family claimed to be semidivine, as indicated by this portrait of a Mughal prince with a golden halo. The figure’s effortless command of the rearing stallion further underscores his supernatural nature, while the elaborate costume, jewelry, and other adornments—even the horse has been decorated with a rich, salmon-hued henna dye—convey his royal status. Distinctive features such as the full beard, large ear, and sideburn curl suggest that this is a depiction of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s son Bahadur Shah (d. 1712), who also appears in a painting on display nearby. Bahadur Shah would ascend to the throne in 1707, at the age of sixty-three. In this magisterial portrait, which was probably painted only a few years earlier, he is portrayed as a virile young man.
- Yael Rice, 2015
figures; horses; nobility; portraits; pose
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