Lot 338. Asaf Khan holding Humayun’s turban, Attributable to Balchand, Mughal India, circa 1630. Opaque pigments and gold on paper, within colored borders on gold-flecked cream album leaf, backed on cream card with later owner seal impression and notes. Painting 5 ¾ x 3 3/8 ins. (14.2 x 8.5 cm.); folio 14 ¼ x 9 ¾ ins. (36.2 x 24.6 cm.). Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 150,000. Price realised USD 112,500. Christie's Images Ltd 2019
Provenance: The Dukes of Newcastle, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, before 1928, sold The Clumber Library: Catalogue of the Magnificent Library, Property of the Late Seventh Duke of Newcastle removed from Clumber, Worksop and sold by the order of the RT. Hon. The Earl of Lincoln, Christie’s, London, 25 October 1937, lot 348;
Jean Pozzi, Paris, sold Succession de M. Jean Pozzi: Collection de Miniatures Indiennes des XVII-XVIII et XIX Siecles, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 2 December 1970, lot 23;
Armen Tokatlian, Paris.
Exhibited: Château de Fontainebleau, 2018, p. 143, cat. 31.
Note: This fine portrait depicts one of the most significant Mughal courtiers of the early 17th century, Mirza Abu'l Hassan Asaf Khan (d.1641). The son of Itimad al-Dawla (Ghyath Beg), the head of Jahangir's Treasury, he was also the brother of Jahangir's favorite wife Nur Jahan and the father of Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan's much loved spouse for whom he built the Taj Mahal. As such he was more closely linked to the Imperial family than any other noble; a number of portraits of him were painted by imperial artists.
Many Mughal paintings depict figures holding symbolic objects such as jewelry, crowns or swords. A portrait of Asaf Khan in the St. Petersburg Muraqqa’ similarly shows him holding royal insignia, in that instance the parasol and crown (Stronge, 2010, no.108, p.144). However, this portrait and the previous portrait of Emperor Akbar are rare examples which present each figure holding Humayun’s distinctive turban-crown. Here, the crown likely symbolizes Asaf Khan’s position as “kingmaker” (ibid.) amplifying his close relationship to Jahangir through an association with his grandfather Humayun.
Other known individual portraits of Asaf Khan include a folio from the Wantage Album signed by Balchand and dated to circa 1620 in the Victoria and Albert Museum (IM.120-1921, London, 1976, no.128, p.73), which is stylistically comparable to our portrait. The high quality of our painting coupled with the fact that Balchand is known to have painted Asaf Khan on a number of occasions suggests that our painting could be the work of this master, or a close follower. For another depiction of Asaf Khan, see lot 182 in this sale.