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Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sarwan (maker)
    Madhav (maker)
    Miskin (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:114-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration to the Akbarnama depicts the emperor Akbar greeting Rajput rulers and other nobles at court, probably in 1577.

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar in 1589 as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written by his court historian and biographer Abu'l Fazl who finished the major part of the text by 1596. The illustrations were being painted as the historian drafted and rewrote his textby at least 49 different artists from Akbar's studio. After Akbar's death in 1605, this incomplete manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), who recorded his ownership on the flyleaf, and later Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658). The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from Mrs Frances Clarke, the widow of Major-General John Clarke, who acquired it in Lucknow while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.

Physical description

Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, the ambassadors of Mirza Shahrukh paying homage to Akbar. Akbar is seated in the royal pavilion whilst before him leading dignitaries stand on a carpeted dais. An elephant and cheetah can be seen in the foreground.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Sarwan (maker)
Madhav (maker)
Miskin (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'tarh Miskin/amal Sarwan/chehra nami hasht surat Madhav'
'Composition by Miskin/ Work [ie painting] by Sarwan / faces and eight portraits by Madhav'
This is a contemporary attribution in Persian, written in red ink at the bottom of the page.

Dimensions

Height: 32 cm picture only, Width: 19.2 cm picture only, Height: 37.9 cm page, Width: 24.3 cm page

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 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 bought it in India while serving as Commissioner in Oudh province from 1858 to 1862

Historical significance: The V&A's partial manuscript 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, ambassadors of Mirza Shahrukh pay homage to Akbar, outline by Miskin, painting by Sarwan, portraits by Madhu, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

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

Rosemary Crill, Mistaken identities : Mughal portraits of Raja Man Singh of Amber and Udai Singh of Marwar. Oriental Art, Autumn 1994, vol.XL, no.3, pp.2-6.
Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1650, V&A Publications, 2002, p. 25, p. 40
p. 26, fig. 2.
The Indian Portrait: 1560-1860 London: National Portrait Gallery, 2010 Number: 978 1 85514 409 5

Labels and date

ENVOYS VISIT AKBAR’S COURT
Illustration to the Akbarnama
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Mughal, composition by Miskina, painted by Sarwan, portraits by Madhav
c. 1590-95

IS.2:114-1896
Two artists usually worked on the illustrations for Akbar’s manuscripts. Here, a third specialist added eight portraits of Akbar’s Central Asian visitors and leading Mughal court figures. Only one, the brilliant prime minister Raja Todar Mal, is named in the red marginal inscriptions. He is almost certainly the figure in white with a gold pen-and-ink case, an emblem of his high office, in his sash. His reforms included adopting Persian as the official language of the empire in 1584. [27/9/2013]

Production Note

Composition by Miskin, painting by Sarwan and eight portraits executed by Madhav. Attribution place is likely to be Delhi, Agra or Fatehpur Sikri.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Pavilion; Cheetah; Peacock; Elephant; Ambassadors

Categories

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

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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