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Not currently on display at the V&A

Akbar

Painting
ca. 1590-95 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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 1573. The painting is the work of Farrokh Beg, named in the contemporary inscription in the lower border. This Iranian artist entered Akbar's service in 1585 when he arrived at court from Kabul. He was solely responsible for both the composition and the painted details of this illustration, unlike the other paintings in the V&A Akbarnama which are the work of two, or sometimes three artists. The inscriptions on the building behind Akbar, in white on deep blue, testify to Farrokh Beg's skill as a calligrapher. He continued in royal service under Akbar's son and successor, Jahangir, who inscribed several paintings with the comment that they were the work of Farrokh Beg 'in his 70th year'. One of these is in the V&A (IM.10-1925).

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.
read The arts of the Mughal Empire The great age of Mughal art lasted from about 1580 to 1650 and spanned the reigns of three emperors: Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Hindu and Muslim artists and craftsmen from the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent worked with Iranian masters in the masculine environment of the r...
object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Brief Description
Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar's triumphant entry into Surat, Farrukh Beg, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95
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, and in the crowd at right is a black-robed Jesuit with blue eyes.
Dimensions
  • Painted surface height: 31.9cm
  • Painted surface width: 19.1cm
  • Painted surface and borders height: 33cm
  • Painted surface and borders width: 20.2cm
Content description
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.
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
(The contemporary attribution to Farrokh Beg is 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 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.
Production
Composed and painted by Farrukh Beg.
Subjects depicted
Association
Literary ReferenceAkbarnama
Summary
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 1573. The painting is the work of Farrokh Beg, named in the contemporary inscription in the lower border. This Iranian artist entered Akbar's service in 1585 when he arrived at court from Kabul. He was solely responsible for both the composition and the painted details of this illustration, unlike the other paintings in the V&A Akbarnama which are the work of two, or sometimes three artists. The inscriptions on the building behind Akbar, in white on deep blue, testify to Farrokh Beg's skill as a calligrapher. He continued in royal service under Akbar's son and successor, Jahangir, who inscribed several paintings with the comment that they were the work of Farrokh Beg 'in his 70th year'. One of these is in the V&A (IM.10-1925).



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
  • Asok Kumar Das, 'Persian Masterworks and their Transformation in Jahangir's Taswirkhana', in Sheila Canby, ed., Humayun's Garden Party. Princes of the House of Timur and Early Mughal Painting, Marg Publications, Bombay 1994, figure 4, p. 141 and p. 143. Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1650, V&A Publications, 2002, pl. 37, p. 56. Jorge Flores and Nuno Vassallo e Silva eds, Goa and the Great Mughal, Lisbon,2004, cat. 11 p. 217, illustrated p. 135. 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 Shakeel Hossain and Deeti Ray, Celebrating Abdur Rahim Khan-i-khanan, Interglobe Foundation/Aga Khan Trust for Culture in association with Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2017, illustrated p. 19
  • 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.
  • Stronge, S. Made for Mughal Emperors. Royal Treasures from Hindustan. London and New York, 2010p. 69, pl. 69
  • 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.p. 27, cat. no. 2
Other Number
183 - inscription/original number
Collection
Accession Number
IS.2:117-1896

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record createdOctober 22, 1998
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