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  • Date:

    ca.1562-1577 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper, glued to the text written on paper and backed with cotton, thus making a four-layered folio.

  • 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. No contemporary, independent version of the text is known and the only remnants of it are those on the backs of the few remaining paintings, making it difficult to reconstruct the stories. Work on the project probably began in about 1562 and took 15 years to complete.
In this episode, Hamza's strong-armed angel Sa'ad dashes enemies to the ground with one hand and leads the army to Barda, where Hamza and the heroes recover their sight. The paint surface is badly damaged.

Physical description

An armour-clad figure on horseback in the foreground holds aloft another armoured figure with one arm, surrounded by horses (cut off by the borders of the painting) and men who gesture surprise. Behind them, a figure peers out from the entrance gate to a fortified city. The painting surface is extremely damaged and some faces have been repainted.


ca.1562-1577 (made)

Materials and Techniques

gouache on prepared cotton backed with paper, glued to the text written on paper and backed with cotton, thus making a four-layered folio.

Marks and inscriptions

Painting number 23, text number 24.


Height: 66.1 cm, Width: 51.9 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.

Descriptive line

Sa'ad, Hamza's strong-armed angel, dashes enemies to the ground and leads the army to Barda', where Hamza and the heroes recover their sight. Hamzanama. ca. 1562-77

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

C. Stanley Clarke; Twelve Mogul Paintings of the School of Humaym (16th century) illustrating the Romance of Amir Hamzah, H.M.S.O. 1921
Gluck, 1925, fig. 24
John Seyller, The Adventures of Hamza, cat. R156, pp. 276-277


Gouache; Paper; Cotton


Islam; Animals and Wildlife


South & South East Asia Collection

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