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PORTRAIT OF BURHAN NIZAM SHAH II. (1591-95) of Ahmadnagar. Biblioteque Nationale, Paris
PORTRAIT OF  BURHAN NIZAM SHAH II


On the reverse of this picture are several inscriptions in Persian and three seals. An inscription in the centre reads "Burhan Nizam al-Mulk". This is presumably in a Mughal hand, since the Mughals never recognised the royal title of the Deccan rulers and always addressed the kings of Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmadnagar as Adil Khan, Qutb al-Mulk and Nizam al-Mulk. Below this some discerning connoisseur has written "the earliest work of the Deccan'' (Kar-i-avval-i-Dakkan). In other inscriptions recording owners the dates 1643 - 4 (A.H. 1053) appears twice, and 1715-6 (A.H. 1128) once. Since this picture would be dated about 1600 irrespective of its subject, we may consider it a portrait of Burhan II, and not an ideal one of his ancestor Burhan I (1509-53). Burhan, imprisoned by his elder brother Murtaza I in Shivner in 1569, after an unsuccessful rebellion fled to Malwa and then to Akbar's court in 1583. In 1585 he joined the unsuccessful Mughal attack on Berar as an amir of Akbar. From Malwa he entered Berar again in 1589, and was again defeated. Finally, with the support of Ibrahim II of Bijapur and Raja Ali Khan of Khandesh, he regained his kingdom, defeating the puppet ruler, his own son, on 7 May, 1591. When he came to the throne Burhan was thirty-one or thirty-three, which is about the age at which he is portrayed here.
Burhan, seated on his throne, is offering gold to a courtier. A sword-bearer fans the king with a white cloth, and a young page offers him pan. Both are Abyssinians, who were much favoured by the Deccan rulers. The men wear the enchanting costume of the Deccan, the scarlet or blue-green of their pyjamas muted to apricot or milky jade by the fine cotton coats. The boy wears a six-pointed coat fashionable at Akbar's court. All three attendants affect the painted and gold embroidered court girdle (patka), for which the Deccan, especially Golconda, was famous. This is the first Deccan painting to show the face not in profile but in three-quarter view; it is curious how the further eye projects, as in the older manuscript tradition.
Burhan had a fine library which was captured by the Mughals at the fall of Ahmadnagar in 1600. This picture may well have formed part of the loot.