Bairam Khan was a powerful officer of the early Mughal court who accompanied Emperor Humayun (1530–40; 1555–6) to India and later became a minister of Akbar the Great (1556–1605). In this portrait, he is clad in a green jama tied with a grey patka; his turban is colourful, featuring red, yellow, and green. He sits calmly on a carpet beneath a frilled canopy that seems to top a terrace.
Mughal depictions of garden pavillions are rarely as solitary—and contemplative—as this one. Usually they show the ruler surrounded by servants and musicians in order to convey the refinement of the Mughal court and, most importantly, its ruler. This setting’s opulence, however, is typical of other pavillion scenes. Rich brocades, double carpets, and intricate patterns surround Bairam, who is joined (rather incongruously) by a large butterfly. The butterfly may have been added later to suggest the officer’s respect for and admiration of nature.
— Filiz Çakır Phillip
Canby, Sheila. Princes, Poets & Paladins: Islamic and Indian Paintings from the Collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1998. ISBN: 9780714114835
Welch, Anthony, and Stuart Cary Welch. Arts of the Islamic Book: The Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982. ISBN: 9780801498824