Posted on: 29 October 2012

A portrait of Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz Mahal), favourite wife of Shah Jahan.
Painting; Watercolour on ivory, Delhi, ca.1830

A Company Painting is a picture made by an Indian artist for the British in India. This one is a portrait in watercolour on ivory. An unknown Delhi artist painted it in about 1830. It depicts Arjumand Banu Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal ('Elect of the Palace'). She was the favourite wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. She died shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child in 1631. The following year the emperor began work on the mausoleum that would house her body. The result was the world-famous Taj Mahal, situated by the River Jumna at Agra.

There are no contemporary portraits of Mumtaz Mahal. This imaginary picture is one of thousands that artists produced to satisfy a huge demand for images of Shah Jahan's favourite. Painting on ivory in India has an ancient history. However, this kind of portrait painting did not develop on a large scale until the 18th century, as a result of British influence. Indian artists soon adjusted to the new technique of stippling (painting with small dots) and watercolour tinting instead of line-drawing and opaque colour. They still practice it today.

Copyright: © V&A Images

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So beautiful..I have never seen a likeness of her before..thank you

STunning... is this an Indian technique of painting? European?

Indeed- judging by the number of these portraits which survive today, these miniature ivory portraits were produced in vast numbers during the 19th century-particularly in the latter half. Popular subjects were the Mughal kings and of course, Mumtaz Mahal seemed to be the most popular of them all. Major centres of production seem to have been Delhi and Agra.

Popular but imaginary, just like most of the "myth" around the Taj ? Is that the message you are giving us RBSI ;-)

She died right after giving birth to their 14th child she definately was shah jahans favourite wife. Pj

I am sure Mumtaz Mahal (with her advanced 14th pregnancy) realised the danger she was putting herself into by accompanying Shah Jahan to a battlefield. This makes her a great woman (as indeed, all women are), and the tragedy got scripted. A case of abuse of power by Mr. chauvinist? No, I think it was not dread but compassion, which made her accompany Shah Jahan, otherwise, as the story goes, in her last moments, she could not have demanded that the greatest monument be built.

14 children can play basketball, but they always played gilli danda and multiplied to 196 and that trend more or less reduced as angrezi sarkar took over............the point of confusion is that if this rare photograph of a painting is real then the artist who drew the painting made it before the birth of first child or was it after any of the 14 other choices........if so which one.

Answer Allah jaane