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Akbar

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Farrukh Beg (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:117-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) riding on a black horse through Surat in western India after taking the city in 1572.

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, Akbar's triumphant entry into Surat. A procession of figures follow the emperor's cavalcade as he surveys the fort of Surat. A musician, bodyguards and camels follow in his wake. In the foreground, an elephant can be seen.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Farrukh Beg (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Farrukh Beg'
[artist's name]
The contemporary attribution to Farrokh Beg is in the margin below the painting.

Dimensions

Height: 31.9 cm painted surface, Width: 19.1 cm painted surface, Height: 33 cm painted surface and borders, Width: 20.2 cm painted surface and borders

Object history note

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 the V&A's partial manuscript was illustrated between about 1590 and 1595 by at least forty-nine different artists from Akbar's studio. After Akbar's death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir. The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from Mrs Frances Clarke, the widow of Major General Clarke, who had bought it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh province.

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 volume of the Akbarnama. The inscriptions 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's triumphant entry into Surat, Farrukh Beg, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

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

Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1650, V&A Publications, 2002, pl. 37, p. 56.
Susan Stronge, "The Akbarnama and Mughal Court Culture", in Gian Carlo Calza, ed., Akbar. The Great Emperor of India, Fondazione Roma, 2012, fig. 7, p. 24
T Koezuka Ed. RC.TK.SS. Catalogue. The Art of the Indian Courts. Intro DS.TK.Osaka 1993. No.2
Guy, J., and Swallow, D., (eds). ‘Arts of India: 1550-1900’. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990. ISBN 1851770224, pp.11 no.1.
p. 69, pl. 69
Stronge, S. Made for Mughal Emperors. Royal Treasures from Hindustan. London and New York, 2010
p. 27, cat. no. 2
Swallow, D., Stronge, S., Crill, R., Koezuka, T., editor and translator, "The Art of the Indian Courts. Miniature Painting and Decorative Arts", Victoria & Albert Museum and NHK Kinki Media Plan, 1993.

Production Note

Composed and painted by Farrukh Beg.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Elephant; Procession; Horse; Ruler

Categories

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

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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