An Enthroned Prince Receives a Turban

An Enthroned Prince Receives a Turban
Mughal, 1590

Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 8.5 x 17.5 cm
Folio: 18 x 30.2 cm

When the Mughal emperor Humayan died on January 27, 1556, after falling and hitting his head while attempting to kneel for prayer, Akbar’s guardian, Bairam Khan, concealed the news until arrangements could be made for the 14 year old Akbar to be crowned. Akbar’s coronation took place in Kalanaur on February 14th of 1556. Abu’l-Fazl informs us “that glory of his lofty lineage put on his person a golden robe, and on his head a dark tiara and sate with good auspices and prestige on the dais of sovereignty and the throne of the Caliphate. Congratulatory shouts arose from the six sides of the world and the heaven resembling pulpit was exalted by the proclamation of fortune, and the stairs of exaltation were made venerable by praises and sublimities.” He goes on to tell us that “the treasures of the court of the Caliphate scattered gold and jewels right and left. From time to time they poured from trays silver and gold into the lap of the world’s hope, and cast varied presents into the bosom of the universe. The blare of the trumpets of joy and gladness burst forth, the drums of rejoicing beat high.” It is a grand occasion that is described, one that would have a profound impact on the future of the world. A doublepaged imperial depiction of the coronation of Akbar, by Madhu, is included in the Chester Beatty Akbarnama1.

In our picture, we see a young ruler, who is being offered a turban, in the company of attendants and courtiers. The type of turban depicted is called a taj-i izzati. This style was unique to Humayun and his court and was not generally used long after his reign. The bearded figure may be Bairam Khan. The style and quality of the painting are in line with low level Mughal manuscript illustrations of the late 16th century.

1. The left half was offered in Sotheby’s, New York, 25 March 1987, lot 186. The right half is in the Chester Beatty Library, ms. 3, 2.93, published in Linda York Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, Pg. 235.