Photos: Wikipedia
Photos: Wikipedia

A resplendent Shah Jahan looks majestically out of a Mughal miniature painting. He is depicted in profile, standing atop a globe with Rajput king Jujhar Singh Bundela kneeling before him.

Defeated by Shah Jahan’s forces early in 1629, the conquest was immortalised by Mughal court painter Bichitr. Years later, this painting and many others would be recreated by Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn in a very different manner.

Not just Jujhar Singh Bundela kneeling before the Shah Jahan, his recreations included a painting of Emperor Jahangir receiving an officer, an interaction between Shah Jahan and Dara Shikoh and many others. Many of them were made using brown ink and gray wash with scratchwork on Japanese paper.

According to data given on the J Paul Getty Museum about a featured exhibition, Rembrandt had created a series of "unusually meticulous drawings depicting emperors and courtiers from Mughal India" late in his career. Visually, they were quite dissimilar from the images that inspired them, being monochromatic sketches lacking many of the fine motifs that mark a Mughal miniature, even as they retained the three-quarter body and profile head view common in Indian painting.

But how did a Dutch artist come across Indian paintings? Going by a Getty listing, the paintings are part of a series of 25 "Indian drawings' that were based on miniatures from the Empire that he saw in a Dutch collection and presumably studied over a long period. This was an era when the Dutch East India Company was flourishing and it is likely that the miniatures in his album had been purchased from international artists and traders.

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