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Akbar and Asaf Khan

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Miskina (maker)
    Bhagwan (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:52-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is the left side of a double-page composition from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) (the right half is Museum no. IS.2:51-1896). The overall composition was designed by Miskina, one of the greatest artists of the Mughal court, with the details on this half being painted by Bhagwan. Together, they depict the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) receiving spoils of war from his leading general Asaf Khan in Jaunpur in 1565. Akbar’s encampment is shown outside the walls of a fort on a river bank. The text specifies that Asaf Khan brought the rarities of the region for the emperor, and presented him with elephants, and fine horses from Iran and Turkey. These animals are depicted on the other side of the composition (IS.2:51-1896).

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, left half of double picture, the right half being IS.2:51-1896. Depicts Akbar receiving trophies of war from his general Asaf Khan. Akbar sits on a travelling throne inlaid with ivory beneath a red canopy outside the walls of a fort on a riverbank.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Miskina (maker)
Bhagwan (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Miskina/Amal Bhagwan'
'composition by Miskina/work [= painting] by Bhagwan'
Contemporary librarian's attribution in Persian written beneath the image at the bottom of the page in red ink.

Dimensions

Height: 33.6 cm, Width: 19.9 cm average

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 c. 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 Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from 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, Akbar receives trophies of war from Asaf Khan, outline by Miskina, painting by Bhagwan, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

Labels and date

AKBAR RECEIVES TROPHIES OF WAR FROM ASAF KHAN
Illustration to the Akbarnama
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Mughal, composition
by Miskina, painted by Bhagwan
c. 1590-95
IS.2:52-1896

In the 1560s and 1570s Akbar vigorously expanded the Mughal empire. In 1565 he set out for Jaunpur to deal with disturbances in the east of his territories. By the time he arrived at the fortified city, his general Asaf Khan had defeated their opponents. Asaf Khan presented Akbar with ‘rarities of the country’, and the treasure he had seized. [27/9/2013]

Production Note

Outline painted by Miskina, colours and details painted by Bhagwan.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Canopy; City; Gifts; Animals; Ruler; Women

Categories

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

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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