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Akbar

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Basawan (outline and portraits, maker)
    Tara (the Elder) (painting, maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:18-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This is the left half of a double-page composition in the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicting an incident that took place when the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) was hunting with companions near Narwar, central India, in 1561. The other side (Museum no. IS.2:17-1896) shows him slaying a tiger who suddenly sprang out at them. Here, Akbar’s companions kill the cubs she was trying to protect. The image, painted by the Mughal court artists Basawan and Sarwan, is overlaid by a panel of Persian text.

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.

Physical description

Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, this is the left half of a double composition depicting an incident when Akbar was hunting and was attacked by a female tiger (IS.2:17-1896). Here, his companions defend themselves from her cubs. The image is overlaid by a panel of Persian text (four lines) extending from the bottom right of the page.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

Artist/maker

Basawan (outline and portraits, maker)
Tara (the Elder) (painting, maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Composition by Basawan/Work [=painting] by Sarwan.'

Dimensions

Height: 33 cm, Width: 20 cm

Object history note

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign and was written in Persian by Abu'l Fazl between 1590 and 1596. It 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 Persian inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings name the artists.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar tiger-hunting near Narwar, outline and portraits by Basawan, painting Tara the Elder, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1586-1589

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

Stronge, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660. V&A Publications 2002, p. 41 (left), p. 62.

Production Note

Composition by Basawan; painted by Sarwan.

Materials

Paper; Paint; Gold; Opaque watercolour

Techniques

Drawing; Painted

Subjects depicted

Ruler; Hunting; Tiger; Akbar; Gwalior

Categories

Manuscripts; Illustration; Paintings; Animals and Wildlife

Collection code

SSEA

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Qr_O9315
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