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Siraj-ud-din Bahadur Shah II with an attendant holding flywhisk

Siraj-ud-din Bahadur Shah II (1775 – 1862) with an attendant holding flywhisk

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Bahadur Shah II popularly known as Bahadur Shah Zafar ruled India for namesake only. He possessed neither army nor wealth and his domains hardly reached beyond the Red Fort. Already in his sixties when he came to the throne, he had spent most of his life in the pursuit of Urdu poetry, of which he was a skilled exponent under the pen name Zafar – ‘Victory’. Strongly drawn to sufi mysticism, he had lived in a comparatively modest style.

After his accession, he continued to devote himself to Mushairas and the patronage of poets such as Ghalib, until history overtook him in 1857. For his nominal leadership of the bloody and tragic Indian Rebellion of that year. Bahadur Shah was deposed by the British, so bringing dynasty of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan to its pathetic close.

In this portrait, Bahadur Shah is kneeling on a golden throne in the latter days of his age. He is holding a hukka mouthpiece in his right hand while an unknown attendant stands holding a flywhisk. This is the only portrait done from the life where he is shown with a white beard.

Akbar Shah II with four of his sons

Akbar Shah II (1759 – 1837) enthroned with four of his sons

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Akbar Shah II was the penultimate Mughal emperor of India. He reigned from 1806 to 1837, was the second son of Shah Alam II and father of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Emperor Akbar Shah II presided over an empire titularly large but its effect was limited to the Red fort only. He sent Ram Mohan Roy (1772 – 1833) to England for appeal against his treatment by the East India Company, but he was not successful. The cultural life of Delhi as a whole flourished during his reign. This composition (with the same throne setting in the Diwan-i-khas or hall of private audience) is known differently in a number of versions.

In this portrait, Akbar II sits enthroned in durbar with his four of his sons and courtiers before him. The throne upon which the Emperor is seated is a replacement of the original peacock throne. The nimbate Emperor wears a golden Jama while the four princes wear the heavy fur-accessorised garment called Tartar dress. From the left, the four princes are Mirza Babur (1796 – 1835), Mirza Jahangir (1791 – 1821), Mirza Salim (1799 – 1836) and Mirza Abu Zafar Siraji al-din Mihammad (1775 – 1862) who later became emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Ali Gauhar Shah Alam II holding prayer beads

Ali Gauhar Shah Alam II (1728 – 1806) holding prayer beads ‘subha’

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Shah Alam II, originally named Ali Gauhar, was the namesake Mughal emperor of India from 1759 to 1806. He was the son of the murdered Alamgir II. He was forced to flee Delhi in 1758 by his minister who kept him a virtual prisoner. He took refuge with the Nawab of Ayodhya and after his father’s assassination in 1759, proclaimed himself emperor. With the intention of seeking to capture Delhi, he demanded tribute from Bihar and Bengal and thereby came into conflict with the East India Company. Comfortably settled at the city of Allahabad, he sought Delhi, and in 1771 an agreement with the Maratha people of western India returned it to him. In 1788, the Afghan chief of Rohilla, Ghulam Qadir seized Delhi and, enraged at his failure to find treasure, blinded Shah Alam.

Shah Alam spent his last years under the protection of the Maratha chief Sindhia, and the Britisher’s. He was called “King of Delhi” by the British, who issued coins bearing his name for 30 years after his death.

In this portrait, done towards the last few years of his life, Shah Alam is shown blind. He has prayer beads called ‘subha’ in his right hand and a hookah pipe in his left. He is seated on a terrace.

Aiz-ud-din Alamgir II seated under canopy

Aiz-ud-din Alamgir II (1699 – 1759) seated under canopy, holding flowers

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Alamgir II son of Jahandar Shah was the Mughal emperor between 1754 and 1759. When he ascended the throne he was an old man of 55 years. He had no experience of administration and warfare as he had spent most of his life in jail. He was a weak ruler, with all power vested in the hand of his Vazir Imad-ul-Mulk, who deposed Ahmed Shah Bahadur and raised him to the throne.

Imad-ul-Mulk was clearly a man of no principles and was commonly criticized for his extreme selfishness. He put all the imperial revenues into his own pocket and starved Alamgir II’s family. He had collaborated with the Marathas and together they dominated the whole of northern India. This was the peak of the Maratha expansion, which caused great trouble for the Mughal Empire, which had already become weak with no strong ruler. He was murdered by Imad-ul-Mulk with the help of a Maratha leader. Alamgir II’s son Ali Gauhar escaped persecution from Delhi, while Shah Jahan III was placed on the throne.

In this portrait, the Emperor Alamgir II is kneeling on a hexagonal golden throne studded with emeralds, rubies and diamonds. He is wearing a pink Jama with flower patterns and a fur collar. He has a rose flower in both the hands. An arch type canopy and the parasol above the throne make for a beautiful composition.

Mirza Ahmad Shah Bahadur kneeling on the throne under the shamiana

Mirza Ahmad Shah Bahadur (1725 – 1775) kneeling on the throne under the shamiana

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Ahmad Shah was the son of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. He succeeded his father to the throne as the 15th Mughal emperor and ruled between 1748 and 1754.

Ahmad Shah had posted Safdarjung, Nawab of Awadh, as Mughal Grand Vazir to handle the administration of the empire. However, Safdarjung was unable to run it proficiently and spent most of his time in internal strife and in increasing his own power and wealth. In 1753, Ahmad Shah appointed Imad-ul-Mulk as the new Grand Vazir to counter the growing influence of Safdarjung. Imad-ul- Mulk gathered the opposition and defeated Safdarjung forcing him to go back to Awadh. However, the administrative weakness of Ahmad Shah led to the rise of Imad-ul-Mulk, who aided by the Marathas, turned against Ahmad Shah Bahadur and arrested the Emperor and his mother. In June 1754, he blinded the Emperor, who spent the remaining years of his life in prison and died of a natural cause in 1775.

In this portrait, the Emperor Ahmad Shah is presented in profile facing right, kneeling on a throne wearing a purple Jama. Brilliant white strands of pearls interlaced with emeralds are wrapped around his turban, neck and wrists. A red velvet Shamiana (canopy) with black and gold borders is stretched overhead on tent poles.

Muhammad Shah in conversation with his Grand Vazir

Muhammad Shah (1702 – 1748) in conversation with his Grand Vazir

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Muhammad Shah, also known as Roshan Akhtar, was the Mughal emperor who ruled between 1719 and 1748. He ascended to the throne at the age 17 with the help of the Sayyid brothers. He later got rid of them with the help of Asaf Jah I. Muhammad Shah was a great patron of arts, that included musical, cultural and administrative developments. He was also known by his pen name ‘Sada Rangila’ (ever joyous).

In this portrait, Muhammad Shah is holding a turban jewel in his right hand and a yellow flower in his left hand. His grand Vazir Qumar-ud-din Khan in return holds an ivory box.

Facing one another, they are drawn in strict profile and both are elegantly attired in floor-length Jamas having floral spring patterns, that was the fashion in the mid-eighteen century.

Muin-ud-din Farrukhsiyar kneeling on a throne holding a turban jewel

Muin-ud-din Farrukhsiyar (1685 – 1719) kneeling on a throne holding a turban jewel

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Farrukhsiyar was the 9th Mughal emperor who ruled between 1713 and 1719. Known as a handsome ruler, he was easily swayed by his advisers. He lacked the ability, knowledge and character to rule independently. Sayyid Barha brothers – Abdullah Khan and Husain Ali, were two noblemen whose families had been associated with the Mughal court for around three generations. They supported Farrukhsiyar to get the throne but themselves became the effective power behind the facade of the Mughal rule. During his reign in 1717, the British East India Company purchased duty-free trading rights in Bengal for mere 3000 rupees a year.

Farrukhsiyar met a humiliating and bloody end. His habit of constant plotting eventually led the Sayyid brothers to officially depose him as the Emperor. He was imprisoned, starved and later blinded with needles. Eventually he was strangled to death.

In this portrait, the Emperor is set within an oval frame surrounded by wide margins filled with gold leaf and flower patterns on a blue background. In this strict profile view you can see the Emperor kneeling on the throne against a stripped bolster. He is holding a studded turban jewel in his right hand and the other hand is resting on a dagger.

Mu’izz-ud-din Jahandar Shah in discussion with petitioners

Mu’izz-ud-din Jahandar Shah (1661 – 1713) in discussion with petitioners

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Jahandar Shah was the eighth Mughal emperor who ruled for a brief period from 1712-13. On the death of his father Bahadur Shah I, he and his brother both declared themselves emperors and conducted a struggle for succession. His brother was killed on 17 March, 1712 while he was able to rule further for eleven months.

Jahandar Shah lead a very frivolous lifestyle and his court was enlivened by dancing and entertainment. His favorite dancing girl Lal Kunwar was elevated to the position of Queen consort on 10 January 1713. He was defeated by his nephew Farrukhsiyar with support of the Sayyid brothers. He was captured and confined along with Lal Kunwar and murdered by professional stranglers on 11 Feb. 1713.

In this portrait, the Emperor is seated on a chair, with a parasol, on a terrace where he is engaged in conversation with the standing petitioners. Two men are standing in front of the emperor, of which one is reading. The other two companions wait patiently. A chowrie bearer is standing behind the emperor.

Muazzam Bahadur Shah I seated on a throne with a parasol

Muazzam Bahadur Shah I (1643 – 1712) seated on a throne with a parasol

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Bahadur Shah I was the seventh Mughal emperor who ruled between 1707 and 1712 after Aurangzeb’s death. His original name was Muhammad Muazzam later titled as Shah Alam by his father. He was popularly known as Bahadur Shah.

He was a more moderate man than his father. Music and arts gained support during his rule. Bahadur Shah controlled and kept united the massive empire that his father made. After his short reign of less than 5 years, the Mughal empire entered a long decline, attributed both to his sudden death and to his father’s geographical overreaching. He may be called the last successful emperor of the Mughal dynasty.

In this portrait, Emperor Shah Alam, presented in profile, is seated on a gold and silver throne adorned with a parasol. He is wearing a simple white Jama with a golden border and holding a turban jewel in his right hand. He is shown with a white beard as he became an emperor when he was in his sixties.

Muhiy-ud-din Aurangzeb receives Vazir Shaista Khan

Muhiy-ud-din Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707) receives Vazir Shaista Khan

by Mughal Delhi artist
dated 1853-54

Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Folio: 16.75 x 12 in. (42.5 x 30 cm.)

Aurangzeb was the sixth Mughal emperor who ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent and was known by his imperial title Alamgir (world-seizer). His reign lasted 49 years from 1658 until his death in 1707. Aurangzeb was a notable expansionist and during his reign, the Mughal empire reached its peak. He was among the wealthiest Mughal rulers. He was a strong and effective ruler, but after his death the great period of the Mughal dynasty came to an end, and the central control of the sub-continent declined rapidly.

In this portrait, Emperor Aurangzeb is seated on a golden throne, with a parasol above, receiveing his maternal uncle Shaista Khan. Shaista Khan, served as a subedar and governor of Bengal from 1664 to 1688, and was a key figure during the rule of his nephew. Aurangzeb is holding a turban jewel composed of pearls and diamonds. The background is simple, a terrace overlooking a river bank and in distance is the horizon.