Nariman Kills the Son of the Khaqan of Chin

Nariman Kills the Son of the Khaqan of Chin, attributed to Govardhan Circa 1610

Nariman Kills the Son of the Khaqan of Chin, attributed to Govardhan Circa 1610
Nariman Kills the Son of the Khaqan of Chin, attributed to Govardhan Circa 1610
Country of Origin: Isfahan Persia
34.3 by 22.4cm.
gouache heightened with gold, paper laid down on stout marbled paper, four columns of nasta’liq script in the upper border, three panels of text in the lower border, including a heading to a new chapter written in gold naskh on blue ground, reading "Faghfur becoming aware of (his) son’s murder and sending Qala to fight Garshasp," borders in colours and gold, outer border with scrolling foliate motif in gold on blue with divisions between them in red, featuring cartouches depicting a bird in gold
Written in the style of the Shahnama by the poet Hakim Abu ‘Ali bin Ahmad Asadi Tusi, the Garshaspnama tells of the eponymous hero, Garshasp's adventures. Garshasp was an ancestor of the famous Rustam whose exploits are extensively recorded in the Shahnama. This miniature depicts the battle in which Nariman, Garshasp’s son attacks the Ashkanian ruler of Turan (China). Almost certainly commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (r.1605-1627) and executed by the celebrated artist Govardhan this miniature is an excellent example of the sophistication of Mughal miniature painting during Jahangir’s reign.

Other miniatures from this manuscript are in the Cleveland Museum of Art (45.1717), the Los Angeles County Museum (M.78.9.5) and two others formerly in the Rothschild Collection. There are also seven detached leaves of text from this Shahnama/Garshaspnama which are in the Chester Beatty Library (11A.34). The margins of many of these paintings and text leaves are stylistically similar to the Farhang-I Jahangiri (Jahangir’s Dictionary) of 1607/8.

We would like to extend our thanks to Professor John Seyller for his permission to allow the publication of the following in support of an attribution to the artist Govardhan:

"The ascription to Govardhan in the lower margin is supported by many elements in the work. Even in his earliest ascribed paintings (1597 Beatty Library Akbarnama ff.176b-177a), Govardhan displays a penchant for unusually expressive eyes, a trait seen here in the agitated , wide-open eyes of the mounted swordsman in the upper centre or the dagger-wielding soldier in the left foreground. The eyes of most figures in this battle scene, however, are both smaller and more narrow-set than those of their counterparts in the earlier Akbarnama paintings, an effect in keeping with Govardhan's ever greater technical precision and growing interest in three-dimensional facial structures.

Many figures find exact matches in Govardhan's two ascribed paintings in the Khamsa of Mir 'Ali Shir Nawa'i in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle (inv. MS. A8, ff. 20b, 35b, published in Milo Beach, "Govardhan: Servant of Jahangir," Mughal Masters: Further Studies, Marg, 1998, figs. 2-3), a Timurid manuscript refurbished by Mughal painters in the first year of Jahangir's reign (1605-06). The bearded, tapering head of the warrior being attacked in the lower left, for example, bears a profound resemblance to the four bearded figures seen in three-quarter view in the Khamsa's bathhouse scene (f. 35b). Likewise, the turbanless head of the horseman fleeing into the fortress is very similar to that of the standing figure with a bucket in the Royal Library Khamsa. Beyond this, the voluminously rendered bastions and domes of the fortress in the Shahnama page are exceedingly close to those forms in the building in Govardhan's other painting in the Khamsa (f.20b). The landscape, too, exhibits the same lightly coloured and rock-strewn ground seen in that same painting."