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Akbar and Asaf Khan

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-95 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Nanha (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:51-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is the right side of a double-page composition designed by Miskina, one of the greatest artists of the Mughal court. The details were painted by Nanha. Together with Museum no. IS.2:52-1896, the paintings depict the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) encamped next to the river Ganges in north-east India. From 1565 to 1567 Akbar was occupied in suppressing rebellion by disaffected Uzbek officers in his service in the eastern provinces of the empire. He took the field in May 1565 and succeeded in driving the rebels out of the territory. When Akbar encamped at Jaunpur during the campaign, he was joined by his leading general Asaf Khan and other officers, who presented the emperor with rare gifts taken from the region during their campaign, and with horses and elephants from Iran and Turkey.

The painting is an illustration from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), commissioned by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. The Akbarnama was written in Persian by Akbar’s 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 a double picture, left side being IS.2:52-1896, Akbar receiving homage and gifts from Ali Quli Khan Zaman. Depicts animals being brought out of a fortified city for presentation to Akbar. In two upper windows, woman watch. Gifts and covered trays are held by servants who move towards the emperor, depicted in the companion page (IS.2:51-1896).

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1590-95 (made)

Artist/maker

Nanha (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

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

Dimensions

Height: 33.4 cm, Width: 19.4 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 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 and painting by Nanha, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95

Production Note

Painted by Nanha, almost certainly composed by Miskina but not attributed.

Materials

Paper; Opaque watercolour; Paint

Techniques

Painted; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Animals; City; Ruler; Gifts; Women

Categories

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

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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