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Not currently on display at the V&A

Akbar

Painting
ca. 1590-95 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This painting is an illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), the official history of the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605). It shows the Governor of Gagraun in Rajasthan, north-west India, presenting the keys of the fort of Gagraun to Akbar in 1561. The writer of the history recounts that Akbar’s power and reputation were now so considerable that his mere presence in the region was enough to make the governor of this fort under enemy control submit immediately. The painting is by the Mughal court artist Madhav Kalan, whose name is recorded in the red inscription in the lower border.

The Akbarnama, commissioned by Akbar, was written in Persian by his court historian and biographer, Abu’l Fazl, between 1590 and 1596, and the V&A’s partial copy of the manuscript is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1595. This is thought to be the earliest illustrated version of the text, and drew upon the expertise of some of the best royal artists of the time. Many of these are listed by Abu’l Fazl in the third volume of the text, the A’in-i Akbari, and some of these names appear in the V&A illustrations, written in red ink beneath the pictures, showing that this was a royal copy made for Akbar himself. After his death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son Jahangir, from whom it was inherited by Shah Jahan.

The V&A purchased the manuscript in 1896 from Frances Clarke, the widow of Major General John Clarke, who bought it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.


Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleAkbar (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Brief description
Painting, Akbarnama, Governor of Gagraun submitting keys of fort to Akbar, by Madhu the Elder, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95
Physical description
Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, depicting the Governor of Gagraun, in Kotah, Rajasthan, submitting the keys of his fort to Akbar in 1561.
Dimensions
  • Height: 32cm
  • Width: 18.4cm
Content description
The Governor of Gagraun, in Kotah, Rajasthan, submitting the keys of his fort to Akbar in 1561.
Styles
Marks and inscriptions
(Contemporary librarian's attributions in Persian, in red ink in the margin below the painting)
Credit line
Purchased from Mrs. Clarke, The Dingle, Sydenham Hill, S. E
Object history
The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written by his court historian and biographer Abu'l Fazl between 1590 and 1596 and is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1594 by at least 49 different artists from Akbar's studio. After Akbar's death in 1605, the manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) and later Shah Jahan (r.1628-1658). The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from Mrs Frances Clarke, the widow of Major-General John Clarke, who bought it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.

Historical significance: It is thought to be the first illustrated copy of the Akbarnama. It drew upon the expertise of some of the best royal painters of the time, many of whom receive special mention by Abu'l Fazl in the A'in-i-Akbari, the third book of the Akbarnama. The inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings name the artists.
Subjects depicted
Place depicted
Association
Literary referenceAkbarnama
Summary
This painting is an illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), the official history of the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605). It shows the Governor of Gagraun in Rajasthan, north-west India, presenting the keys of the fort of Gagraun to Akbar in 1561. The writer of the history recounts that Akbar’s power and reputation were now so considerable that his mere presence in the region was enough to make the governor of this fort under enemy control submit immediately. The painting is by the Mughal court artist Madhav Kalan, whose name is recorded in the red inscription in the lower border.

The Akbarnama, commissioned by Akbar, was written in Persian by his court historian and biographer, Abu’l Fazl, between 1590 and 1596, and the V&A’s partial copy of the manuscript is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1595. This is thought to be the earliest illustrated version of the text, and drew upon the expertise of some of the best royal artists of the time. Many of these are listed by Abu’l Fazl in the third volume of the text, the A’in-i Akbari, and some of these names appear in the V&A illustrations, written in red ink beneath the pictures, showing that this was a royal copy made for Akbar himself. After his death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son Jahangir, from whom it was inherited by Shah Jahan.

The V&A purchased the manuscript in 1896 from Frances Clarke, the widow of Major General John Clarke, who bought it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.
Bibliographic reference
Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1650, V&A Publications, 2002, pl. 43, p. 64
Other number
94 - Inscription/original number
Collection
Accession number
IS.2:14-1896

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Record createdOctober 9, 1998
Record URL
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