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Akbar

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Basawan (maker)
    Dharmdas (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:24-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration to the Akbarnama by Basawan and Dharmdas depicts Akbar hunting with cheetahs in the neighbourhood of Agra. The emperor was particularly fond of hunting and frequently participated in this exciting sport. Here, Akbar is the central figure on horseback chasing a cheetah. Other members of the hunting party are shown also participating in the capture of animals on foot, horseback and riding on elephants. Several cages are shown, which were used both to entrap animals (goats were placed in the cage to attract tigers) and to transport them.
The Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written in Persian 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. He 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 hunting with cheetahs in the neighbourhood of Agra.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Basawan (maker)
Dharmdas (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Basawan/Amal Dharmdas'
'Composition by Basawan/Work [=painting] by Dharmdas'
Contemporary librarian's attribution in Persian written beneath the image at the bottom of the page in red ink.

Dimensions

Height: 33.5 cm painting, Width: 19.6 cm painting, Height: 37.6 cm page, Width: 23 cm page

Object history note

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the Emperor Akbar as an official chronicle of his reign. It was written by his court historian and biographer Abu'l Fazl around 1590, and illustrated during the same decade by at least forty-nine different artists from Akbar's studio. After Akbar's death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jehangir. The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from the widow of major General Clarke, an official who served as the Commissioner in 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 inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings name the artists.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar hunting with cheetahs, outline by Basawan, painting Dharmdas, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

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

H. Beveridge (trs), The Akbar Nama of Abu-l-Fazl, Ess Ess Publications, Delhi 1977, vol. II, p. 226.

Swallow, Deborah: Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, 25 Years of the Nehru Gallery of Indian Art and the Nehru Trust, p. 91, no. 3.

Production Note

Composition by Basawan; painted by Dharmdas.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Hunting; Cheetah

Categories

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

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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