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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 by the Mughal court artists Kesav Kalan and Dharmdas is an illustration from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), the history of the reign of Akbar (r.1556-1605) . It depicts an incident that took place after the Mughal army defeated Baz Bahadur, the Muslim ruler of Malwa in north-central India, in 1561. His court was renowned for its beautiful women dancers and musicians, some of whom are depicted here performing for the Mughal emperor.

The Akbarnama was commissioned by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It 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
Materials and Techniques
Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Brief Description
Painting, Akbarnama, dancers from Malwa perform before Akbar, outline by Kesu the Elder, painting by Dharm Das, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95
Physical Description
Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, the famous dancers of Baz Bahadur perform a kathak dance for Akbar following the defeat of the Malwa ruler in 1561. The dancers are shown wearing an unusual combination of layered skirts and trousers not seen elsewhere in the Akbarnama. The image is overlaid by two panels of Persian text.
Dimensions
  • Height: 32.9cm
  • Width: 25cm
Content description
The famous dancers of Baz Bahadur perform a kathak dance for Akbar following the defeat of the Malwa ruler in 1561.
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
(Contemporary librarian's attributions in Persian, in red ink in the margin below the painting.)
Object history
The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written by 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 that of Shah Jahan (r.1628-1658). The 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,("Institutes of Akbar"), the third volume of the Akbarnama. The Persian inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings name the artists.
Production
Composition by Kesav the Elder, painted by Dharmdas.
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Association
Literary ReferenceAkbarnama
Summary
This painting by the Mughal court artists Kesav Kalan and Dharmdas is an illustration from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), the history of the reign of Akbar (r.1556-1605) . It depicts an incident that took place after the Mughal army defeated Baz Bahadur, the Muslim ruler of Malwa in north-central India, in 1561. His court was renowned for its beautiful women dancers and musicians, some of whom are depicted here performing for the Mughal emperor.



The Akbarnama was commissioned by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It 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 References
  • Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1650, V&A Publications, London, 2002, pl. 45, p.67
  • The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982 Number: ISBN 0 906969 26 3Andrew Topsfield, cat. no. 26. p. 24
  • Susan Stronge, Nima Smith, and J.C. Harle. A Golden Treasury : Jewellery from the Indian Subcontinent London : Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 1988. ISBN: 0944142168Fig 5 Page 27
  • Susan Stronge, Nima Smith, and J.C. Harle. A Golden Treasury : Jewellery from the Indian Subcontinent London : Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 1988. ISBN: 0944142168Fig.5 page 28
Other Number
96 - Inscription/original number
Collection
Accession Number
IS.2:16-1896

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record createdOctober 9, 1998
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