, The emperor Jahangir celebrating the festival of Holi with the women of the zenana Enlarge 1 /1
Provincial Mughal painting, Awadh style The emperor Jahangir celebrating the festival of Holi with the women of the zenana c. 1800 Place made: Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Materials & Technique: paintings, miniatures, opaque watercolour and gold Support: paper
Dimensions: image 26.4 h x 21.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: The Gayer-Anderson Gift 1954
Accession No: NGA 91.1345
Subject: Religious festivals Portrait: male Royalty
  • With Luzac & Co., London, England, 1947 or before
  • who sold it to Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson, 1947
  • held in the collection of Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson and Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, both of The Little Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk, England, 1947-1953
  • who gave it to the Commonwealth of Australia, 1953
  • held by National Library of Australia, Canberra, after transfer from London, 1954-1991
  • transferred to the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1991.
  • The collecting history of this painting is partial. The earliest known transaction is its purchase by the donor in London in 1947. The National Gallery of Australia welcomes further information regarding its history of ownership prior to 1947.

The festival of Holi celebrates the love of the Hindu god Krishna for the milkmaids [gopis]. Based on ancient fertility rites, it takes place at the beginning of spring. Revellers throw coloured powder and spray dye-tinted water at each other in an atmosphere of merriment and light-hearted mischief.

Painted long after his death, this image shows the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569–1627, ruled 1605–27) embracing one of his wives, perhaps his favourite, Nur Jahan. Women of the zenana, female quarters, play with syringes of coloured water. The emperor is depicted in profile with a halo signifying his divine right to rule. With a long history in the arts of India, Iran and beyond to Europe, the halo began to be used in portraits of India’s Mughal emperors during Jahangir’s reign.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label