Rembrandt’s Mughal Collection



His paintings are amongst the most prized in the world, but did you know that the Dutch master Rembrandt was a big collector of Mughal curios. So inspired was he by them, that he did a whole series of etchings and portraits of Mughal rulers like Jehangir and Shah Jahan who were his contemporaries!



Rembrandt’s sketch of Shah Jahan with his favourite son Dara Shikoh, dated around 1654-1656
Rembrandt’s sketch of Shah Jahan with his favourite son Dara Shikoh, dated around 1654-1656| Paul J Getty Museum

In the 17th century, the Dutch were among the biggest traders who sailed the seas weaving their way across the ports of India. Frequent travel brought with it constant cultural exchanges - while the Europeans brought the idea of perspective or depth in paintings from the masters back home, they took back exotic pieces of art and miniatures. In Holland, these paintings were known as 'Suratse teeckeningen' or 'drawings from Surat', as Surat was the main trading port of the Mughal empire.

Ships of the Dutch East India Company that engaged in trade with India
Ships of the Dutch East India Company that engaged in trade with India|Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt apparently collected all that he could find on the Mughals (he had a full album of Mughal portraits), and between 1656 - 1666 he made a series of 25 drawings based on Mughal themes. He made portraits of Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Dara Shikoh, as well as sketches of anonymous Mughal noblemen. Rembrandt was most fascinated with the Indian turbans and shawls seen in these miniatures and copied them in his other paintings as well. It is not known if Rembrandt made these drawings for his personal use or as commissions.

<i>The Emperor Akbar and his Son Salim in Apotheosis </i>by<i> </i>Rembrandt<i> </i>circa 1656 &nbsp;
The Emperor Akbar and his Son Salim in Apotheosis by Rembrandt circa 1656  |Wikimedia Commons

Today, Rembrandt’s sketches of the Mughals can be seen in museums and private collections around the world. One can only guess at their worth given what a rarity they are.

The original painting titled ‘Emperor Jahangir Receiving an Officer’ (1654-56) by Rembrandt-  part of the  ‘India &amp; the World’ exhibition at CSMVS Museum in Mumbai
The original painting titled ‘Emperor Jahangir Receiving an Officer’ (1654-56) by Rembrandt- part of the ‘India & the World’ exhibition at CSMVS Museum in Mumbai|LHI Team

To see the original painting as shown in the picture above, do visit the ‘India & the World' exhibition which is currently on display at CSMVS Museum in Mumbai.


ABOUT LIVE HISTORY INDIA

Live History India is a first of its kind digital platform aimed at helping you Rediscover the many facets and layers of India’s great history and cultural legacy. Our aim is to bring alive the many stories that make India and get our readers access to the best research and work being done on the subject. If you have any comments or suggestions or you want to reach out to us and be part of our journey across time and geography, do write to us at Contactus@livehistoryindia.com

Subscribe to our
Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Newsletter!

Join our mailing list to recieve the latest news and updates from our team.

close