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Crocker Art Museum

Miniature Watercolor of Emperor Shah Jahan

Miniature Watercolor of Emperor Shah Jahan

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From: Crocker Art Museum
Limited Edition: 5
Exhibition: Crocker Art Museum Expansion
Material: Printed vinyl
Dimensions: 30" x 96" (76cm x 243cm)

Hanging Hardware Included


Emperor Shah Jahan ruled the Mughal Empire during its greatest period of prosperity. In 1631, his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died giving birth to their 14th child. He was so grief-stricken that he ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal, the extraordinary white marble mausoleum in Agra, India, in her memory. In addition to this great architectural contribution, Shah Jahan built upon his father’s, and grandfather’s, affinity for royal art. An opaque watercolor bearing Shah Jahan’s likeness was used on this banner to promote the permanent collection of the Crocker Art Museum.


The Mughal conquest of India in 1526 resulted in significant changes on the Indian art scene. Akbar, the third Mughal emperor, encouraged a wider variety of artists than the Persian court style of the early 16th century and anatomically correct portraiture gained favor. Akbar’s son, Jahangir, furthered refinement in the arts, paving the way for his son, Shah Jahan, to rule during the most prosperous time in the Mughal Empire. Shah Jahan means “King of the World” and his reign (1628-1658) as the fifth Mughal emperor was dubbed the Golden Age of the Mughals.

Emperor Shah Jahan is best known for his architectural achievements, especially the Taj Mahal, the white marble tomb built in honor of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. The mausoleum was completed in 16 years; the surrounding buildings and gardens took another five years to complete.

Given the affluence of the times, it is no surprise that Shah Jahan’s contribution to portraiture emphasized surface decoration. This can be appreciated on the original painting from which this banner is reproduced. In the full miniature (12 ¾” x 8 ¾”) opaque watercolor, the Emperor wears a pearl necklace and pendant and holds a jewel; even his headpiece is wrapped with pearls. Like other portraiture of the times, Shah Jahan is painted in profile with a white Persian beard, indicating his advancing age. It is thought that the aureole circling his head represented a flirtation with Christianity by Shah Jahan and his predecessors.

The Emperor’s watercolor was donated by William and Edith Cleary to the Crocker Museum in 1992 along with 600 other Indian and Persian miniature paintings and drawings. In large part, this donation represents the foundation of the Crocker’s South Asian collection.

On the banner used to promote the permanent collection of the Crocker, the Shah Jahan watercolor appears in detail (the jewel is not visible). Both sides of the banner are identical.


This banner was displayed around the Sacramento area during the Fall of 2010, and was used as a general branding banner to promote the museum prior to the unveiling of the Crocker Art Museum’s expansion.

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