Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Painting - An Ayyar murders Qubad in his sleep

An Ayyar murders Qubad in his sleep

  • 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:

    South Asia, Room 41, case C

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. Work probably began in about 1562 and took 15 years to complete.

This illustration depicts the murder of Hamza's second son, Qubad. Hamza's father-in-law, Anushirvan, had ordered one of his servants to kill a particular prince. The servant tragically misunderstood his instructions and, entering Qubad's encampment at night, murdered the prince as he slept.

Physical description

The murder of Qubad occupies the centre of the composition, and takes place beneath a canopy decorated with animals and trees on a gold ground at the top, and arabesques on a blue ground beneath. It is supported by slender red pillars which frame the figures of Qubad, who had been sleeping on his throne, and the murderer who slits Qubad's throat. His attendants sleep inside the tented enclosure, and outside it.

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

Marks and inscriptions

The numbers '972' and, beneath, '6'.


Height: 739 mm painting maximum, Width: 570 mm painting maximum, Height: 699 mm image within innermost painted borders maximum, Width: 502 mm image within innermost painted borders maximum

Object history note

Illustration from the Hamzanama, or 'Book of Hamza', ca.1562-1577 commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Bought for the museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke in Srinagar in 1881.

Historical context note

The production of the illustrated volumes of the epic Hamzanama ('Book of Hamza') was the first major undertaking of the new Mughal painting studio. Directed by two Iranian masters brought to India by the emperor Humayun, work began under his son Akbar and was said to have taken fifteen years to complete, drawing artists from all over northern Hindustan.

Descriptive line

An ayyar misunderstands Anoshirvan's order and murders Qubad in his sleep. Hamzanama. ca.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. 24, pp.92-93.
Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor, V&A Publications, 2002, pl. 7, p. 22 and details pl. 8
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. 11

Labels and date

Illustration to the Hamzanama, or Book of Hamza
Gouache and gold on cotton, backed with paper
c. 1562-77
These two folios were discovered in 1881 in a Kashmiri curiosity shop, where they were being used to block up windows to keep out the cold. The imperial volumes to which they once belonged had 1400 illustrations. Fewer than 200 survive. The Persian text on the back of each provides only fragments of complicated stories. In this scene, a servant tragically misunderstands instructions to kill an enemy and instead murders Hamza’s sleeping son. [01/08/2017]


South & South East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.