Shah Shuja Hunting Nilgai
Payag, Indian, Shah Shuja Hunting Nilgai, ca. 1650-1655, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper; Height: 39.4 cm (15 1/2 inches), Museum Works of Art Fund 58.068
This superbly executed painting depicts Shah Shuja (1616—1660), second grandson of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, hunting nilgai (a type of antelope) with members of his royal entourage. The work is attributed to Payag, the most distinguished Mughal painter of the second quarter of the seventeenth century, on the basis of his ‘signature:’ two white rabbits near the painting’s center. The illusionistic rendering of space and atmosphere in this watercolor contrasts strongly with the conventional profile views of Shah Shuja, his attendants, and the nilgai. Hunting was an important pastime at the Mughal court, and depictions of the hunt allude to territorial domination and military prowess.