Sultan Ibrahim 'Adil Shah with a consort in a landscape

Attributed to the ‘Dublin Painter’
Bijapur, Deccan, India, c. 1590-1605
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Painting: 16 x 12 cm; Folio: 31 x 22.5 cm

Inscribed at left in a Jahangiri hand ‘shabihi surat ‘Adilkhan’, later small seal impression at lower left giving the name ”Abd Abu Talib’ and the date 1154 AH (1741 AD), laid down on an album page with concentric borders of pink, blue and cream paper

 

This is a very rare and highly important early Bijapuri portrait of Sultan Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah (r.1579-1627), attributable to the so-called ‘Dublin painter’. It is one of only a small number of royal portraits of this period from the Deccan and it has remained so-far unpublished, constituting a significant discovery in this field.

Zebrowski describes the period of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah as follows: “Ibrahim Adil Shah II was the greatest patron of the arts the Deccan produced. Passionately fond of painting, music and poetry he caused sweeping changes to occur in Deccani painting just as the Mughal emperor Akbar transformed Mughal art. When he assumed full power at the age of twenty….Bijapuri painting suddenly erupted brilliantly mature…. Although always retaining an earthy wildness, the finest Bijapuri works from this point onwards fully equal the most splendid Mughal and Safavid paintings, both in expressive power and technical achievement” (Zebrowski 1983, p.67).

The style of the present painting is distinctive and it is clearly the work of the artist dubbed by Zebrowski as the ‘Dublin painter’, who was responsible for several Bijapuri masterpieces of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century (see Zebrowski 1983, nos.82-86, pls.XII-XIII), as well as fifteen of the thirty-four illustrations in the pivotal manuscript of the Pem Nem in the British Library (Add. 16880), where he is known as ‘Hand A’ and is acknowledged as the most skilful of the three artists of that manuscript (see Zebrowski 1983, no.81; and for a full discussion and illustrations of all the miniatures see Hutton 2011, pp.44-63).

The closest comparisons to the present work are indeed to be found in the Pem Nem, where almost all the illustrations by ‘Hand A’ show strong similarities, and specific comparisons are as follows: the landscape and skyline of the present work is close to folios 46, 49, 70, 213; the architecture to  folios 46, 47, 49, 69, 70, 90, 213; the trees to folios  46, 47, 49, 69, 80, 87, 90, 119, 135, 138, 213; the faces to folios 46, 47, 49, 69, 75, 82, 119, 181, 183, 210, 213, 215, 219; and the clothing to almost all the illustrations. The palette of the landscape is particularly close to the illustration on folio 49.

In addition, comparisons can be clearly seen with other works attributed to the Dublin painter, including the well-knownYogini in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (Inv.11A.31, see Leach 1995, vol.ii, pp.912-913, no.9.641, col.pl.126; Zebrowski 1983, no.82, pl.12), where the architecture, trees and skyline are particularly close, and the orange of the yogini’s robe is almost identical to the shawl of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah in the present work. Other notable works attributed to this artist that relate to the present one are the well-known Siesta in the Islamisches Museum, Berlin (T.4595. fol.36, see Zebrowski 1983, no.85, pl.XIII, Michel 1986, front cover; Hickmann 1979, no.17) and the Ascetic Visited by a Yogini in the same museum (T.4596, fol.4a, see Zebrowski 1983 no.86, Hickmann 1979, no.37).

The pose of the Sultan as depicted here, with his upper body facing the viewer rather squarely while his feet would imply a more profile view, is close to another portrait of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah of the same period, attributed by Zebrowski to the so-called ‘Bikaner painter’ (Bikaner Palace Collection, see Zebrowski 1983, no.50; Zebrowski 1999, fig.122).

The present work has a further level of importance in the inscription of identification written vertically down the left edge. This is written in the style of the Emperor Jahangir and is almost certainly by him. The ties between the Mughal dynasty and Bijapur at this time were increasingly close, albeit under some duress from the Mughals. With the fall of Ahmadnagar to the Mughal armies in 1600, the other Deccani sultanates reluctantly saw the necessity of keeping the peace with their powerful neighbours to the north. In 1601 Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah of Bijapur grudgingly gave consent for his daughter to marry Emperor Akbar’s son Daniyal, and amongst a sumptuous amount of tribute sent north was one of his favourite elephants, Chanchal, and, significantly, two thousand volumes of manuscripts and illustrations from the royal Bijapur Library (this according to the Mughal ambassador Asad Khan, see Zebrowski 1983, p.67-68). Aritistic ties between the two dynasties were also close, with the Perso-Mughal artist Farrukh Beg spending time in Bijapur, and Bijapuri paintings becoming popular at the Mughal court.

“The first decade of the seventeenth century must therefore have been a high point of artistic cross-fertilization between the Deccan and the Mughal court. Deccani paintings probably intrigued and pleased both Akbar and Jahangir, accustomed to the realism and restraint of Mughal art…” (Zebrowski 1983, p.68). It is surely in this context that the present work found its way to the Mughal court for Jahangir to write his inscription of identification on the edge of the portrait.

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