The painting “Jahangir Embracing Shah Abbas I,” by Abu’l Hasan, depicts Jahangir and Shah Abbas standing on a lion and lamb, respectively, on the globe with the sun and moon behind them. This painting, through iconographical analysis of the moon and sun, the two men’s embrace, and the animals combined with an iconological analysis of Jahangir’s diary entries and events surrounding Qandahar, shows Jahangir’s insecurity and passivity as a ruler. As the painting title suggests, Jahangir and Shah Abbas are indeed in an embrace. Jahangir, the taller of the two, has his arms around Shah Abbas in what initially looks like a friendly gesture. Shah Abbas appears to be shrinking away from him but still reciprocates the hug. Shah Abbas looks up to Jahangir as he looks down at Shah Abbas. This suggests that Jahangir is the more powerful of the two men and is the one being cordial extending his welcome to Shah Abbas.
In the painting, although Shah Abbas and Jahangir share the focus of the painting, Jahangir’s head acts as the center of the sun. The sun is rimmed on the bottom with a sliver of moon. The sun acts as a halo for Jahangir which Asher says symbolizes “his legitimate right to rule”i reinforcing his authority over his empire where his feet are placed on the globe. The sun and moon represent his divinity and right to rule which also would suggest confidence on Jahangir’s part as well.
Between Jahangir’s feet and the globe there is a lion. Underneath Shah Abbas lies a lamb. Both are asleep next to each other in an unnatural state for two natural enemies. An interesting pair that is a “peaceful coexistence between weak and strong” which Koch explains metaphorically represents Jahangir’s “qualities as [a] universal cosmic ruler who brings about a Golden Age” and allegorically “his ability to protect the oppressed from their oppressors.”ii The symbol of peace of the lion and lamb, combined with Jahangir’s right to rule and benevolence towards other rulers, makes him seem like a strong and confident leader.
In contrast, history tells a very different story. Jahangir kept a diary during his time in office. When read, it gives off the impression that he was very passive, withdrawn, and uncertain of himself. He wanted structure in his life and this can be seen by his constant reference to rank and the very rigid organization of the Mughal…