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  • Date:

    ca.1562-1577 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The illustrated volumes describing the fantastic adventures of Hamza (called the "Hamzanama" or "Book of Hamza") were commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar who ruled from 1556 to 1605. Their production was the first major project of the royal painting workshops during Akbar's reign: it took 15 years to complete, probably between 1562 and 1577. The stories, from a long-established oral tradition, were written down in Persian, the language of the court, and originally had 1400 illustrations of which fewer than 200 have survived. The artists were directed by Mir Sayyed 'Ali and 'Abd as-Samad, two Iranian masters brought to India by Akbar's father. No independent, contemporary version of the text is known, and so many of the original pages are lost that it is difficult to reconstruct the complicated stories depicting battles between Hamza and his heroic followers, and their enemies. These included unbelievers, dragons, witches and giants.

In this painting, Hashim and Haris come as veiled knights to drive the unbelievers from Hamza's camp.

Physical description

The painting is done on cotton backed with paper; the text on the back is on paper backed with cotton; the four layers are glued together. The veiled heroes Hashim and Haris throw a giant, clad in armour lavishly decorated with gold, from a rocky outcrop. The centre of the composition is filled with the tumbling, upside-down figure. Horses are shown at lower left and lower right, their bodies cut off by the limits of the composition. Groups of men watch the falling giant from behind the rocks in the background, registering their shock and amazement through stock gestures of Iranian art. The surface is damaged and the faces of most of the onlookers have been repainted.


ca.1562-1577 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper

Marks and inscriptions

Text number 9, written on the back.


Height: 69 cm, Width: 52.2 cm

Object history note

From one of the illustrated volumes commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar. bought for the museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke in Srinagar in 1881.

Historical context note

The 'Hamzanama' was the first major project undertaken by the new painting studio of the Mughal court. Directed by two Iranian masters brought to India by Humayun, work began under Akbar and was said to have taken fifteen years to complete, drawing from artists from all over northern Hindustan.

Descriptive line

Hashim and Haris, Hamza's sons, deliver Hamza's camp from unbelievers. Hamzanama.

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

Seyller, John. The Adventures of Hamza. Smithsonian Institution. 2002, cat. R.145, pp. 274-275.
p. 25, pl. 10
STRONGE, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560 – 1660 London : V&A Publications, 2002. 192p, ill. ISBN 1 85177 358 4.
pl. 10
C. Stanley Clarke; Twelve Mogul Paintings of the School of Humaym (16th century) illustrating the Romance of Amir Hamzah, H.M.S.O. 1921


Gouache; Cotton; Paper

Subjects depicted

Horse; Giant; Rocks


South & South East Asia Collection

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