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Akbar Receives the Iranian Ambassador Sayyid Beg in 1562

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    La'l (maker)
    Nand (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:27-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) receiving the Iranian ambassador, Sayyid Beg, in 1562. It is the right half of a double page designed by the Mughal court artist La’l. The left half (Museum no. IS.2:28-1896) shows the entourage of the ambassador bearing the gifts sent by Shah Tahmasp of Iran.

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 emperor Akbar receiving Sayyid Beg, the ambassador from Persia, at Agra, the imperial capital in 1562. The image is overlaid by two bands of text at the top and bottom, extending from the left-hand margin.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

La'l (maker)
Nand (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'tarh La'l/amal Nand walad-e Ramdas'
'Composed by La'l/painted by Nand son of Ramdas'
Contemporary attribution in Persian, written in red ink below the painting

Dimensions

Height: 30.8 cm painting, Width: 19.1 cm painting

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 between 1590 and 1596, and 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 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 refer to the artists and indicate that this was a royal copy.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar receives Iranian ambassador Sayyid Beg, outline by La'l, painting by Nand, 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, p. 23, p. 38 pl. 26
Stronge, Susan, Jewels for the Mughal Court, pp/ 308-317
The V&A Album, 5, London: 1986 Number: ISBN 1851770771

Production Note

Composition by La'l, colours and details painted by Nand.
Attribution place is likely to be Delhi, Agra or Fatehpur Sikri.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Birds of prey; Courtiers; Ambassadors; Monarchy; Falcon (bird); Men; Writing (processes); Deer; Bottles; Thrones; Hawk; Audiences; Antelope; Turbans; Pavilions (garden structures); Emperors; Costume

Categories

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

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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