Emperor Jahangir Weighs Prince Khurram was painted by Manohar Das between 1610 and 1615. The painting portrays the Indian Hindu culture. The painting is available at the British Museum. The art of painting reveals most of the historical ideas about a certain cultural group at a particular time or period. Manohar’s picture is filled with so many historical ideas about the Mughal court. Emperor Jahangir Weighs Prince Khurram is one of the Mughal’s paintings that reveals about the Mughal’s throne in the 17th century. The painting further reveals the social, political and economic achievements of the Mughal emperor. Manohar grew up around the Mughal court where his father was a painter; this exposed him to an artistic form of expression as he inherited his father’s work as emperor’s court painter.
In the traditional kingdoms, kings expected their first son and heir to the throne to inherit the kingship. Every community that had kingship leadership organization followed this routine; the prince was supposed to learn the virtues associated with leadership such as charity and caring for his people. Indian Hindu is one of the main communities with rich cultures in the Southeast Asian region that practiced the kingship leadership (Schonbaum). This piece of art reveals the relationship between the artist and the time it was painted. However, analyzing this piece of art can help shade more light on the subject and the relationship between the artist and the piece of art during the time it was painted.
The first thing that the viewer can come across the first time of looking at the painting, Emperor Jahangir Weighs Prince Khurram is the royal setting; from the title of the painting, the emperor weighing his son, Prince Khurram while other royal court officials watching besides the emperor. Further, one can see the red velvet cushion where the prince is seated in a weighing pan with the other side filled with golden jewels. The Prince wears a sleeveless garment that the artist has brocaded with gold in the painting. Although it is difficult to see the color of the wears that the prince has won underneath, one can see the white long sleeved jama that is designed with red and gold. The prince has also worn a green trouser that can be easily seen through the fainted green tint of the jama skirt that he wears. The elements of the prince’s wears consist of gold that reveals that the setting must be associated with royalty. Gold jewels that are placed on the pan used to balance the prince also indicate the achievement and wealth that the royal court has obtained.
The royalty symbols have been presented in most of the clothing that the prince wears. The Prince’s conch-shaped turban also symbolizes royalty as it is made of red cloth designed in gold like other clothing that the prince has put on. The prince and other royal household members presented in the painting wears a double patka indicating the Mughal culture and style. His father, Emperor Jahangir is standing beside his son and heir to the throne wearing the same patka and royal clothing like his son and other royal relatives, but his clothing is not as embellished as princes.
According to Mughal culture, the king and prince have to show care and charity to his subjects; therefore, gold and silver presented beside the prince are to be divided to the poor subjects (Kossak). The painting piece size maybe 6.5 in width and 9 in height. Prince Khurram presented in the painting is also expected to donate the wealth besides him as charity to his subjects. The artist has presented the relationship between the human world and spirit world. The setting is filled with worldly riches, gold and silver jewels and the expensive garments only known to be worn by the royalty and rich people. However, the background of the painting shows an open visionary garden; the strings used to balance the prince, and the gold jewels are vertically raised representing the world of spirituality. The pillars used to make the pan balance are in diagonal position showing the act of movement. The movement represented by the diagonal posts represents the prince journey to succeed his father, Emperor Jahangir when he reaches the age. It also represents the preparation of the prince to be the charitable and caring king to his subjects.
The love for the prince by his relatives and other Mughal court royal officials is shown by the negative space occupied by the members. The artist has maximally utilized the space; the prince from all sides surrounded by people. Unlike the positive space where the artist uses minimal area and leaves an ample space to show isolation, this painting has maximally utilized space. The artist has beautifully used modeling and shading to depict naturalism and realistic form of the royalty. One can clearly see and understand the subject of this piece of painting. The royalty shows luxury, expensive and good lifestyle. The fine clothing and perfect posture indicate that the prince is well taken care of. Additionally, the expensive garments that the prince and his relatives have won are elements of nobility and aristocrat.
The artist has brilliantly used the meticulous brushwork and variety fine watercolors on old paper. This is shown by the smooth texture depicted by the bright garments. The relatives surrounding the prince are barefooted; this further depicts the smoothness of the painting’s texture. The artist has integrated both bright and dull light intensity in the painting to show joy and seriousness. The events in the painting take place outside the house where there is sufficient light; this is a show to joy in the celebration of the prince’s birthday. However, the dull light used to paint inside the house shows seriousness in the event.
Besides the prince and the royal relatives who stand on top of a carpet, there are also three people, two men standing on the right and one man kneeling down on the left side. The three men are standing just beneath the carpet region besides the textile jewels and ceremonial royal daggers showing the disparity between the ruling class and the servants. The two people represent the servants who work for the royal household. Their garments are not embellished as prince’s or emperor’s garments. The kneeling man seems to be serving something to the prince. The distant disconnection between the three servants standing away from the royal carpet and the royal household standing on the carpet region further shows the emotional disconnection between the masters and their subjects.
The artist tried to show the preparation of the prince to his new role of succeeding his father, Emperor Jahangir. The artist has beautifully utilized the artistic skills and talent to capture the royalty, class disparity and achievements in the Mughal dynasty in Southeast Asia. The artist has further artistically depicted the royal celebration in preparedness for the Prince to take over his rightful place after the emperor. This piece of painting is fascinating as it exposes one to not only the traditional ideas about Mughal Empire but also provokes the viewer’s investigation into other artistic works.
Kossak, Steven. Indian court painting, 16th-19th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997.
Schonbaum, Anthony Pawlas. “Life at the Mughal court as revealed in contemporary paintings.” (2014). Accessed on December 5, 2016 from https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/11237