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Akbar

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ikhlas (maker)
    Nanha (maker)
    Basawan (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:23-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration from the Akbarnama shows Akbar on pilgrimage visiting the tomb of Mu'in ad-Din Chishti at Ajmer in 1562. It is the work of Basawan and Ikhlas, who were responsible for the composition and colouring respectively, while Nanha painted the faces of the most important figures, including, presumably, that of the emperor, seen praying at the entrance to the tomb. The lower part of the picture depicts the distribution of money and food to the poor.

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the Mughal 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.

Physical description

Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Akbar stands in veneration before the shrine of Mu'in ad-Din Chishti at Ajmer in 1562. Outside the walls enclosing the shrine, in the lower half of the composition, holy men, sellers of flowers and food, and retainers mill around.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Ikhlas (maker)
Nanha (maker)
Basawan (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Basawan/amal Ikhlas/chehreh nami Nanha'
'Composition by Basawan/Work [ie painting] by Ikhlas/Faces by Nanha'
These are contemporary attributions, written in Persian in red ink at the bottom of the page.

Dimensions

Height: 32.8 cm painting, Width: 20.1 cm painting

Object history note

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign in 1589. It was written by his court historian and biographer Abu'l Fazl between 1590 and 1596 and is thought to have been illustrated between c. 1592 and 1594 by at least forty-nine 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 had bought it while serving as Commissioner of Oudh, India, 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 written in Persian in red ink on the bottom of the paintings refer to the artists and indicate that this was a royal copy.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar visits tomb of Khwajah Mu'in ad-Din Chishti, outline by Basawan, painting Ikhlas, portraits Nanha, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

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

Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660, Susan Stronge, p 9. pl. 1. Event of painting wrongly dated as 1570 whereas this was the illustration of an event that took place in 1562.
H. Beveridge (trs), The Akbar Nama of Abu-l-Fazl, Ess Ess Publications, Delhi, 1977, vol. II, p. 243.
p.112, pl. 79
Stronge, S. Made for Mughal Emperors. Royal Treasures from Hindustan. London and New York, 2010

Production Note

Composition by Basawan, colours and details painted by Ikhlas, portraits by Nanha.
Attribution place is likely to be Delhi, Agra or Fatehpur Sikri.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Shrines

Categories

Paintings; Images Online; Animals and Wildlife; Illustration; Royalty; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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