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Pir Muhammad Khan

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Miskina (artist)
    Paras (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:26-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration, composed by the Mughal court artist Miskina with details painted by Paras, is an illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar). It depicts the drowning of Pir Muhammad Khan, one of the generals of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605), in the Narbada River in central India in 1562. In the centre of the picture the imperial army can be seen fording the river either on horseback or on inflated skins. The variety of animals (horses, camels, goats, crocodiles, birds, fish and a monkey) demonstrates Miskina’s preoccupation with the animal kingdom.

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, the drowning of Pir Muhammad Khan in the Narbada river in 1562. In the centre of the picture, the imperial army can be seen fording the river either on horseback or on inflated skins. The variety of animals (horses, camels, goats, crocodiles, birds, fish and a monkey) encountered in the scene demonstrates Miskina's preoccupation with the animal kingdom. The image is overlaid at the top and bottom by two bands of text, extending from the left-hand margin.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Miskina (artist)
Paras (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Miskina/Amal Paras'
'Composition by Miskina/Work [=painting] by Paras'
Contemporary librarian's attributions in Persian, in red ink in the margin below the painting

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. This was written by Abu'l Fazl between 1590 and 1596 and is thought to have been illustrated between ca.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 Museum purchased it in 1896 from Frances Clarke the widow of Major General Clarke, an official who had been the Commissioner in Oudh province 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 inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings name the artists.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, Pir Muhammad Khan drowns, outline by Miskina, painting Paras, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

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

Sen, Geeti. Paintings from the Akbar Nama. Lustre Press, 1984, page 74.

Production Note

Composition by Miskina; painted by Paras.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Camels; Goats; Equestrians; Army; Fish; Rivers; Monkey; Birds; Horses; Crocodiles

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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