Aurangzeb Alamgir (1618-1707)

By: Hafsa Zuberi

Gouache and Gold on paper.

This pattern is known as a Shamsa (sunburst) and decorates the closing page of an imperial Mughal album.


The golden halo surrounding the Emperor's head is a sign of influence from western illumination and symbolizes the light of God as divine sanction for Emperor Shah Jehan's rule. His successor Aurangzeb's portrait was painted over the original portrait of his father Shah Jehan after he seized the throne and took over the imperial library in 1658. Aurangzeb is illustrated with a long beard and holding prayer breads (tasbīh) in his hand, referencing his religious orthodoxy which dramatically changed the culture of the Mughal court during his rule.

The original page from the album which inspired this piece currently resides in the Cleveland Museum of Art.