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Painting - The Witch Anqarut ties Malik Iraj to a tree

The Witch Anqarut ties Malik Iraj to a tree

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1562-1577 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper; Persian text on reverse written on paper backed with cotton; the four layers glued together

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Hamzanama, or 'Book of Hamza' was commissioned by the great Mughal emperor Akbar in the mid-16th century. The epic story of a character based very loosely on the life of the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad chronicles the fantastic adventures of Hamza as he and his band of heroes fight against the enemies of Islam. The stories, from a long-established oral tradition, were written down for Akbar in Persian, the language of the court, in multiple volumes. These originally had 1400 illustrations, of which fewer than 200 survive today. Work probably began in about 1562 and took 15 years to complete. The only text to have survived from Akbar's commission is that pasted to the back of each painting. So much of the original is missing that it is now difficult to follow the complex narrative, which has many stories within stories.

This illustration shows the witch Anqarut in the guise of a beautiful young woman, who hopes to seduce the legendarily handsome young king Malik Iraj, whom she has captured and tied to a tree.

Physical description

Two figures perch in the upper branches of trees whose foliage fills most of the composition. On the left, the witch Anqarut has assumed the guise of a beautiful young woman. On the right is her captive, the young king Malik Iraj, whom she has bound to the tree and is trying to seduce. Both their faces have suffered later disfigurement.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)


ca. 1562-1577 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper; Persian text on reverse written on paper backed with cotton; the four layers glued together


Height: 67.4 cm painting, Width: 51.7 cm painting, Height: 74.7 cm folio, Width: 58.5 cm folio

Object history note

An illustration to the epic romance, the Hamzanama, ca.1562-1577. 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 Hindustan by the emperor Humayun, work began under his son, Akbar, and took fifteen years to complete.

Descriptive line

The witch Anqarut ties Malik Iraj to a tree, transforms herself into a young maiden, and tries to seduce him. Hamzanama. Mughal court, ca.1562-77

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

Binyon and Arnold, 1921, pl. 2
Heinrich Gluck, Die indischen Miniaturen des Haemzae-Romanes im Osterreichischen Museum fur Kunst und Industrie in Wien und in anderen Sammlungen, Leipzig, Zurich and Vienna: Amalthea-Verlag, 1925, fig. 40
J.V.S. Wilkinson, Mughal Painting, London: Faber and Faber, 1948, pl. 2
Hamza-nama: Vollstandige wiedergabe der bekannten Blatter der Handscrift aus dem Bestanden aller erreichbaren Sammlungen. 2 Band. Die Blatter aus dem Victoria & Albert Museum London. Graz: Akademische Druck-u.Verlaganstalt, 1982, pl. 10
Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The art of the book 1560-1650, London: V&A Publications, 2002, pl.13
Seyller, John. The Adventures of Hamza. Smithsonian Institution. 2002, cat. 81, pp. 242-243.
Stronge, Susan, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1650, V&A Publications 2002, pl. 13, p. 28.
pl. 4
C. Stanley Clarke; Twelve Mogul Paintings of the School of Humaym (16th century) illustrating the Romance of Amir Hamzah, H.M.S.O. 1921

Labels and date

Illustration to the Hamzanama
Gouache and gold painted on cotton, backed with paper
c. 1562-77

The ‘Book of Hamza’ describes the epic adventures of the Muslim hero and his followers confronting infidels, dragons, giants and other enemies. Fewer than 200 of the original 1400 illustrations have survived. The only remaining contemporary text is on the back of each picture. The incomplete narrative is therefore difficult to follow. Here, we know only that a hideous witch has tied up a king of legendary beauty. She changes herself into a lovely young woman and tries to seduce him. [27/9/2013]




Illustration; Paintings; Islam


South & South East Asia Collection

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