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Zain Khan Koka

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    India (possibly, made)
    Pakistan (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    late 16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This portrait was probably painted for the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) and depicts Zain Khan, who name was always followed by "Koka", meaning "foster brother" in recognition of his relationship with the ruler: his mother had been Akbar's wet nurse. Zain Khan's daughter married Akbar's son, Salim (later the emperor Jahangir, who ruled from 1605-1627). He had a distinguished career, leading the Mughal armies in campaigns against the Afghans, and becoming governor of Kabul in AH 1005 (1596-97) before dying in battle in AH 1010 (1601-02). He was an accomplished musician, and according to a contemporary chronicler was without equal in his talent for "playing Hindu music". He was also a calligrapher and poet. This portrait is one of many commissioned by Akbar of his immediate circle at court. It was bought by the museum in 1965 from the Trustees of the estate of Captain E. G. Spencer-Churchill.

Physical description

Painting, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, a portrait of the Emperor Akbar's foster brother, Zain Khan Kuka (d. 1600) against a green background.

Place of Origin

India (possibly, made)
Pakistan (possibly, made)


late 16th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'shabih-i Zain Khan Koka'
'Likeness of Zain Khan Koka'
Written in Persian in black ink, possibly in Jahangir's hand, on the left side of the portrait.


Height: 100 mm image within innermost painted borders, Width: 66 mm image within innermost painted borders, Height: 320 mm, Width: 220 mm

Object history note

Formerly in the collections of Warren Hastings (Govenor-General of India 1774-1785) and Captain E. G. Spencer-Churchill. Sold to the museum (with other paintings in the Spencer-Churchill collection) in 1965.

Descriptive line

Painting, portrait of Zain Khan Koka, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, late 16th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal emperor. The art of the book in India 1560-1650, V&A Publications, 2002, pl. 68, p. 102.
p. 27, fig. 3.
The Indian Portrait: 1560-1860 London: National Portrait Gallery, 2010 Number: 978 1 85514 409 5


Paper; Watercolour; Gold; Paint



Subjects depicted



Portraits; Paintings; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project


South & South East Asia Collection

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