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PORTRAIT OF MUHAMMAD QUTB SHAH (1611-1626) OF GOLCONDA. British Museum
PORTRAIT OF MUHAMMAD QUTB SHAH (1611-1626) OF GOLCONDA


The young king has been identified as Ibrahim II Adil Shah of Bijapur. His costume however is that worn by Muhammad Qutb Shah and his predecessor Muhammad Quli in late 17th-century portraits made by Golconda artists for European visitors to the court. His angular features resemble those of Muhammad Qutb Shah as we see him about the age of thirty in a fine Mughal copy of a Deccan portrait. Muhammad was eighteen when he came to the throne. Our portrait shows him soon after his accession and may be dated about 1612. He was then, in the opinion of Floris, one of the first Dutch observers, "a yongman of great hope". His reign was uneventful. He founded the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, and was, like all his line, something of a poet.
The king is seated on his throne in a pavilion. He wears on his shoulders, in the words of William Methwold, 'a loose white callico cloth, in use like our sommer clokes". Three ambassadors present their credentials to the king. Below are four richly caparisoned Arabian horses led by pages. We have a description of such an embassy to Muhammad Quli from Shah Abbas of Persia in 1603, when valuable gifts of jewels, carpets, velvets and horses were made. These horses were especially prized in the Deccan. Methwold says: 'the king (of Golconda) sendeth also an adventure (to Mocha), the proceed whereof is invested in Arabian horses, which are returned not above sixe or eight in a shippe, whereof they make great account; for in this countrey there is no race of good horses". One of the pages to the right of the king is an Abyssinian: all three wear the Golconda girdle (patka). All the figures affect long, wide straps on each side of the coat, in a contrasting colour and often gold edged. This fashion, favoured at Golconda and Bijapur, is not found at Ahmadnagar, where the straps are narrow and unobtrusive, like those of Akbar's court.
The lavish display of gold plate and the curiously looped girdles of the pages are also found in five excellent Golconda miniatures of about 1610 to 1620 inserted in a Divan of Hafiz dated 1643.