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Painting

Painting

  • Date:

    ca.1562-1577 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.1517-1883

  • 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 in Persian, the language of the court, in multiple volumes. These originally had 1400 illustrations, of which fewer than 200 survive today. The only contemporary version of the text is that on the back of the few remaining pictures, making it now difficult to follow the stories. Work on the project probably began in about 1562 and took 15 years to complete.
In this heavily creased and damaged painting, with a replacement patch at upper left, a giant rides through an encampment outside a walled city on his horse. A battle is taking place and in the foreground are boats. It has been identified as the camp of Hamza being attacked by fire-worshippers who attempt to land their ships at night while he is away. Another identification is more precise: 'Arabians under Assim and Sa'ad oppose the landing of the fire-worshippers during a night attack in the Ajam district near Damascus'.

Physical description

In this heavily creased and damaged painting, with a replacement patch at upper left, a giant rides through an encampment outside a walled city on his horse. A battle is taking place and in the foreground are boats.

Date

ca.1562-1577 (made)

Materials and Techniques

gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper

Marks and inscriptions

Painting number 2.

Dimensions

Height: 67.5 cm, Width: 50.5 cm

Object history note

An illustration from the epic romance of the Hamzanama 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

In Hamza's absence, fire worshippers attack his camp, but their attempt to land a fleet at night is repelled. Hamzanama. 1562-77

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

C. Stanley Clarke. Indian Drawings. Twelve Mogul Paintings of the School of Humayun (16th century) illustrating the Romance of Amir Hamzah. Victoria and Albert Museum Portfolios, London, 1921.
Seyller, John. The Adventures of Hamza. Smithsonian Institution. 2002, cat. R150, pp. 274-275.
Gluck 1925, fig. 32.

Materials

Gouache; Cotton; Paper

Subjects depicted

Battle; Giant; Horse

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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