Akbar Shah II. The Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II and Archibald Seton, British Resident at Delhi, riding an elephant.

Northern India, ca. 1850-1860.

Painting in pigment and gilt on limp board (460 x 400 mm), laid loosely in mat (660 x 550).


In this carefully realized Indian miniature, the shifting powers of late Mughal India appear in a single scene: riding on an elephant are the Mughal emperor Akbar Shah II (1760-1837) and Archibald Seton (1758-1818), British resident at Delhi, with Archibald Seton holding a morchal and sitting behind the haloed and bejeweled ruler. In front of the pair a mahout holds the huqqa base and an ankus, and the elephant itself richly bedecked. By the mid-19th century, roughly when this painting was completed, these two men encapsulated the changed face of India under East India Company and British colonial rule.

Archibald Seton was a Scottish East India Company colonial administrator whose first posting was in Bengal. Passing through the Company ranks, Seton was eventually charged with the collection of the revenue, and the administration of civil and criminal justice, in the districts of Bhangolpore and Behar. When further lands were seized by the East India Company in 1801, he was stationed to oversee them; eventually he was appointed to the office of President at the Delhi court of Akbar Shah's father, Shah Alam II, and after Alam's death to that of Akbar Shah II himself.

During Seton's time in Delhi the East India Company consolidated their colonization of the Mughal Empire, eventually dispensing with the illusion of ruling in the name of Akbar Shah II and removing his name from the coins struck by the company in the areas under their control.


One very subtly repaired closed tear, so cleanly cut as if by a razor and almost indistinguishable. Very light ceases and edgewear; in very good condition.

Stock Code: BN#63047 Tags: , , ,