start page
PORTRAIT OF SHAH DAULAT by Bichitr. Chester Beatty Collection
PORTRAIT OF SHAH DAULAT


Though the name of the subject of this portrait is not given, he has been identified as a celebrated Muhammadan saint. Shah Daulat lived during the reigns of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb, and was shown marked reverence by all three. He was credited with magical powers.
The painting was formerly included in a remarkable album belonging to Jahangir and Shah Jahan, which was later in the possession of Lord Minto. It contained some forty paintings by the leading Court artists. Half of these are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and half now belong to Mr. Chester Beatty.
To the right of the picture is a Persian inscription, 'The servant of the Royal Court' (referring probably to the painter, whose name is written below). The emblem carried by Shah Daulat may indicate his devotion to the Emperor. The globe is inscribed in Persian, 'The key of the victory over the two worlds is entrusted to thy hand'.
The portrait is an impressive example of the art as it developed towards the middle of the seventeenth century, and especially of the mastery of facial ex¬pression obtained. Strongly influenced by Europe, this delicate portraiture yet retains some traces of indigenous convention. Almost all the portraits, for instance, are in profile or near profile as regards the face and feet, while the body is shown in three-quarter profile.
Bichitr seems to have specialized in portrait painting, and to have been active from the beginning of the reign of Shah Jahan, whose portrait he painted in his fortieth year (1632—3).