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The indigenous Indian painting, miniature or fresco, did not have depth-perspective. The Mughals, with their contacts with the art-world beyond the Indian land, especially Persia, introduced it in Indian art and made it three-dimensional, the depth-perspective being a new element. Shahjahan’s first love was architecture, an essentially multi-dimensional art; hence, by his time, three-dimensionality had become an indispensable condition of the art of painting, at least what of it was practised at Mughal court or pursuing Mughals’ court art-style. This portrait is one of the best examples of Mughals’ idea of perspective. It not only discovers the perspective of depth but by creating a receding series of doors and their respective narrowing sizes also its merging point and by fixing it around the face of the portrayed figure affords it the utmost projection.
The second son of Shahjahan, the creator of Tajmahal, one of the world’s few wonders, Shah Shuja was born in 1616 of his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal. After Aurangzeb, Shahjahan’s third son, imprisoned his father in a military coup, there ensued among his sons a fierce war for succession and in it Shah Shuja was assassinated by his own younger brother. This portrait, and indeed its proto-model of 1640-50 A.D., represents Shah Shuja when about twenty-five years of age. A portrait in profile, his figure has been caught left-facing. He is wearing a gold-printed pearl-white jama with a green half coat lavishly embellished with gold-thread over it, and a pajama with red yellow and black stripes. The other alike beautiful components of his costume are his ‘pataka’ – waistband, a piece of zari-embroidered white muslin, a sash woven entirely with gold-thread, and a green silken turban with a red gold-embroidered band containing it. He is elegantly bejewelled especially with variously sized strings of pearls.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.