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Eastern Encounters pattern
Eastern Encounters

Drawn from the Royal Library's collection of South Asian books and manuscripts

CAT. NO. 35

Mir Muhammad Sa’id, known as Mu’azzam Khan

Mughal, <i>c</i>.1660

Fol. 5r from a late eighteenth-century Mughal album | Painting in ink and watercolour including gold metallic paint on paper with later additions in opaque watercolour and paper extension to lower edge; set into composite margins of dyed and plain papers with opaque watercolour and gold metallic ornament and ink inscriptions | 32.7 × 22.2 cm (folio); 17.4 × 9.5 cm (image) | RCIN 1005069.f

If one can ignore the eighteenth-century additions of sward and sky, the reward is to discover an outstandingly delicate portrait, worked up in minuscule brushstrokes, depicting the famously tall Iranian Mir Muhammad Sa’id (1591–1663). A high-ranking Mughal courtier of the late seventeenth century, he was, according to one Mughal historian, unrivalled for his ‘judgement, dignity, farsightedness, wisdom, courage, genius and zeal’.[137] A worked-up colour version of the portrait exists, but is no rival to this in terms of delicate shading and subtlety.[138]

Originally from Ardestan, near Esfahan, Mir Muhammad Sa’id initially came to India as a diamond merchant and settled in the Deccan. Having amassed inordinate wealth, he became involved in local politics and soon found himself employed in the service of Abdullah Qutub Shah, the ruler of Golconda. He rose to the highest position in court but made enemies along the way and, in 1656, prudently defected to the Mughal court via Prince Aurangzeb, then Viceroy of the Deccan. Shah-Jahan received him in a durbar ceremony during which Mir Muhammad Sa’id presented the Emperor with an exceptional diamond and Shah-Jahan in return bestowed on him the title Mu’azzam (‘Magnificent’) Khan. After Prince Aurangzeb ascended the throne as Emperor Alamgir, Mir Muhammad Sa’id was given the title Mir Jumla and appointed to the important position of Governor of Bengal. 

  • mu’azzam khan mir jumla sipah salar / Mu’azzam Khan Mir Jumla Commander-in-Chief

  • [137] See Ma’asir al-Umara, vol. II, pp. 188–205.

    [138] This portrait is in the so-called Late Shah-Jahan Album (CBL In 07B.37). See Wright ed. 2008, p. 393. 

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