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Akbar

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Basawan (artist, outline, maker)
    Tara (the Elder) (painting, maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:61-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This illustration from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) is the right side of a double-page composition designed by Basawan, one of the greatest artists at the Mughal court, with details painted by Tara the Elder. The left side is Museum no. IS.2:62-1896. Together they depict a battle between sannyasis (Hindu devotees) at Thanesar in north-west India, watched by the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) on horseback, accompanied by his entourage.

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, right side of double picture, left side being IS.2:62-1896. This image depicts Emperor Akbar watching a battle between two bands of sanyasis (Hindu devotees) at Thanesar. This foreground of the painting is taken up by the bloody fighting which is portrayed in gruesome detail including a severed body at the front. The emperor on horseback is watching the battle scene accompanied by his entourage.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

Artist/maker

Basawan (artist, outline, maker)
Tara (the Elder) (painting, maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Basawan/Amal Tara Kalan' 'composed by Basawan/work [painting] by Tara the Elder'

Dimensions

Height: 32.9 cm, Width: 18.7 cm

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 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.

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 watches a battle between two rival groups of sanyasis at Thanesar, outline by Basawan, painting by Tara the Elder, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1586-1589

Associated names

Fazl, Abu'l

Production Note

Outline composed by Basawan painted by Tara the Elder.

Materials

Paper; Paint; Opaque watercolour

Techniques

Drawing; Painted

Subjects depicted

Ruler; Battle; Akbar

Categories

Illustration; Paintings; Animals and Wildlife

Collection code

SSEA

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Qr_O9627
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