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Mirza Sulayman

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bhagwan (outline, maker)
    Madhav (artist, portraits, Madhu, maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:49-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the flight of Mirza Sulayman from the Mughal army in Kabul (present-day Afghanistan). Those bearing the title Mirza were, like the Mughal royal family, descended from Timur, the Central Asian ruler who had briefly conquered Hindustan, as the northern regions of South Asia were known, in 1398. As a result, Hindustan was later seen as a legitimate target for conquest by members of the different branches of the family. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) battles between Mughal forces and various Mirzas frequently took place as each tried to seize control of a particular region. The title Mirza is a contraction of the Persian ‘Amirzadeh’, meaning ‘born of the amir’ (that is, Timur). The picture was painted by the Mughal court artist Bhagwan, with the faces done by Madhav.

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.

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, the flight of Mirza Sulayman from Kabul in 1654.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

Artist/maker

Bhagwan (outline, maker)
Madhav (artist, portraits, Madhu, maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'work [= painting] by Bhagwan/portraits by Madhav'

Dimensions

Height: 33.6 cm, Width: 20.3 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 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, flight of Mirza Sulayman from Kabul, outline by Bhagwani, portraits by Madhu, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1586-1589

Associated names

Fazl, Abu'l

Production Note

Outline composed and painted by Bhagwan, portraits by Madhav.

Materials

Paper; Paint; Opaque watercolour

Techniques

Drawing; Painted

Categories

Illustration; Paintings; Animals and Wildlife

Collection code

SSEA

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Qr_O9672
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