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Prince Salim

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kesav Kalan (maker)
    Dharmdas (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:78-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This illustration from the Akbarnama depicts the rejoicing upon the birth of Prince Salim.
In 1564, one of Akbar’s wives had given birth to twin sons, but they both died after a month and the emperor began to despair of producing a male heir. He visited the Sufi Shaikh Salim Chishti at Sikri, who assured him that his prayers would be answered. Early in 1569, a Hindu wife of Akbar was found to be pregnant. She moved to Sikri and gave birth there to a son, named Salim after the shaikh. When Akbar heard the news in Agra, he decided to follow an ancient custom of Hindustan and delay seeing such a long-awaited baby. The painting provides a glimpse of the concealed world of the zanana, and the joyous tumult greeting a royal birth. Shortly afterwards, Akbar ordered a new city to be built at Sikri which became known as Fatehpur, or City of Victory.
[Akbarnama, English translation: Beveridge, vol. II, pp. 502-8]
at the imperial city of Fatehpur Sikri. The image shows an aerial view of the zenana and birth chamber. While musicians perform in the central courtyard, alms are distributed to beggars outside the wall.

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 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 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 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 rejoicings on the birth of Prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) at Fatehpur Sikri. An aerial view of the zenana and birth chamber is given, whilst musicians play in the central courtyard. Outside the wall, alms are distributed to beggars.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Kesav Kalan (maker)
Dharmdas (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Kesav Kalan/amal Dharmdas'
'composition by Kesav the Elder/work [ie painting] by Dharmdas'
The contemporary attributions to the artists are written in Persian, in red ink, below the painting in the margin.

Dimensions

Height: 32.2 cm painting, Width: 18.9 cm painting

Object history note

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign in 1589 and was written by Abu'l Fazl who completed his work in 1596. It was illustrated by court artists as the author wrote and revised the book. 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 while serving as Commissioner of Oudh, India 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 refer to the artists and indicate that this was a royal copy.

Calza, Gian Carlo (ed.) Akbar: the great emperor of India. Rome : Fondazione, Roma Museo, 2012. ISBN 978-88-572-1525-9 (hard cover edition); ISBN 978-88-572-1793-2 (soft cover edition). p.234 , cat. no.I.1.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, rejoicings at the birth of Prince Salim and Maryam az-Zamani, outline by Kesav the Elder, painting Dharmdas, 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, pl. 51, p. 79.
Andrew Topsfield, cat. no. 28, p. 33
The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982 Number: ISBN 0 906969 26 3)
p. 151, cat. no. 670 c
The art of India and Pakistan, a commemorative catalogue of the exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1947-8. Edited by Sir Leigh Ashton. London: Faber and Faber, [1950]
p. 59, ill. 8.
Bor, J. and Bruguiere, P. Gloire des Princes: Louange des Dieux, Musee de la Musique, 2003.
pl. 30
Irwin, John C., Indian Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1968

Production Note

Composition by Kesav Kalan, colours and details painted by Dharmdas.
Attribution place is likely to be Lahorei.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Birth; Prince; Beggars; Musicians; Birth

Categories

ELISE; Paintings; Manuscripts; Images Online; Illustration; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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