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Painting - The spy Tayir enters a fort to release the captive Faizlan Shah.
  • The spy Tayir enters a fort to release the captive Faizlan Shah.
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The spy Tayir enters a fort to release the captive Faizlan Shah.

  • Object:


  • Date:

    ca.1562-1577 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper

  • 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 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 remaining paintings, making it difficult to reconstruct the narrative. Work on the project probably began in about 1562 and took 15 years to complete.
This illustration appears to be a continuation of the conflict between Hamza's heroes and the unbelievers, who in this episode are fire-worshippers. Hamza's spy Tayir enters a fort where Fazlan Shah is chained, and releases him.

Physical description

The gateway to a heavily fortified city is depicted, with a man about to enter the gate in the foreground at left, accompanied by a small dog. Inside, women look out of windows and a couple converse in an interior in the background, all registering surprise through the conventional gesture of putting a finger to the lips.


ca.1562-1577 (made)

Materials and Techniques

gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper


Height: 66.3 cm, Width: 51 cm

Object history note

An illustration to 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.

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.
Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor, V&A Publications, 2002, pl. 18, p. 33 and detail pl. 19, p. 32
Gluck, 1925, fig. 34


Gouache; Cotton; Paper

Subjects depicted

Dog; Gateway


South & South East Asia Collection

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