Hamzanama thumbnail 1
Hamzanama thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South Asia, Room 41

Hamzanama

Painting
1562-1577 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Hamzanama, or 'Book of Hamza' was commissioned by the great Mughal emperor Akbar in the mid-16th century. The epic story of a character based very loosely on the life of the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad chronicles the fantastic adventures of Hamza as he and his band of heroes fight against the enemies of Islam. The stories, from a long-established oral tradition, were written down in Persian, the language of the court, in multiple volumes. These originally had 1400 illustrations, and their creation is known to have taken 15 years. Work is thought to have begun in about 1562. Fewer than 200 illustrations have survived, and the original text is only that on the back of each remaining folio, meaning that the complicated stories are often difficult to follow. This painting depicts the dismembered body of Hamza in the cave, following his death in battle at Mount Uhud.
The folio was acquired by Sir Raleigh Gilbert Egerton in Srinagar, Kashmir, in 1913.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gouache and gold on prepared cotton backed with paper; the callligraphy on the reverse written on paper backed with cotton; the four layers glued together
Brief Description
Painting, Hamza, killed in battle at Mount Uhud, is beheaded and mutilated, illustration from the epic romance the Hamzanama, gouache on cotton, Mughal, c.1562-1577
Physical Description
Painting, gouache on cotton, depicting Hamza, killed in battle at Mount Uhud, is beheaded and mutilated, illustration from the epic romance the Hamzanama. Within an enclosure, surrounded by embroidered screens, is seated on the throne a bearded man dressed in a green and gold robe and turban, behind whom are other bearded men, one of whom offers a white scarf to the seated man. Before him, another man of high rank presents a young woman clad in a flowered blue choli who is partially concealed by a screen. In the upper part of the picture is a cave in which lies the decapitated body of a man dressed in an orange robe with a katar (dagger) thrust into his white girdle. Around him are the disorderly remains of a feast. To the left are the same man and woman, seen lower down in the enclosure. In the background are rocks and trees. On the reverse side is a page of manuscript in black ink on coarse paper splashed with traces of gold. Hamza was a character based partly on a historical Iranian insurrectionary leader from Sistan, and was also identified with the uncle of the Prophet Muhammed.
Dimensions
  • Page height: 70.5cm
  • Page width: 55cm
  • Mount height: 865mm (Note: External mount height)
  • Mount weight: 640mm (Note: External mount width)
Content description
Hamza, killed in battle at Mount Uhud, is beheaded and mutilated, illustration from the epic romance the Hamzanama. Within an enclosure, surrounded by embroidered screens, is seated on the throne a bearded man dressed in a green and gold robe and turban, behind whom are other bearded men, one of whom offers a white scarf to the seated man. Before him, another man of high rank presents a young woman clad in a flowered blue choli who is partially concealed by a screen. In the upper part of the picture is a cave in which lies the decapitated body of a man dressed in an orange robe with a katar (dagger) thrust into his white girdle. Around him are the disorderly remains of a feast. To the left are the same man and woman, seen lower down in the enclosure. In the background are rocks and trees. On the reverse side is a page of manuscript in black ink on coarse paper splashed with traces of gold.
Style
Gallery Label
THE DEATH OF HAMZA Illustration to the Hamzanama, or Book of Hamza Gouache and gold on cotton, backed with paper Mughal c. 1562-77 IM.4-1921 Given by Lt. Gen. Sir Raleigh Gilbert Egerton The Hamzanama was the first major manuscript commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar. The adventures of the Muslim hero Hamza were usually told by travelling performers or court reciters, but Akbar ordered them to be written down and illustrated in multiple volumes. Two Iranian masters directed Hindustani artists to create a new, distinctively Mughal style. Here, Hamza’s body lies dismembered in a cave following his death in battle.(01/08/2017)
Credit line
Given by Lt Gen Sir R.G. Egerton, K.C.B., K.C.I.E
Object history
The 'Hamzanama' was the first major project undertaken by the new painting studio of the Mughal court. Directed by two Iranian masters (Mir Sayyid 'Ali and 'Abdus Samad) brought to India by Humayun, work began under Akbar as early as 1562 and was said to have taken fifteen years to complete, drawing from artists from all over northern Hindustan. It was said to have consisted of fourteen volumes. The paintings are unusual for their large format and for being painted on prepared cotton rather than on paper.
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceIllustration from the epic romance the Hamzanama
Summary
The Hamzanama, or 'Book of Hamza' was commissioned by the great Mughal emperor Akbar in the mid-16th century. The epic story of a character based very loosely on the life of the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad chronicles the fantastic adventures of Hamza as he and his band of heroes fight against the enemies of Islam. The stories, from a long-established oral tradition, were written down in Persian, the language of the court, in multiple volumes. These originally had 1400 illustrations, and their creation is known to have taken 15 years. Work is thought to have begun in about 1562. Fewer than 200 illustrations have survived, and the original text is only that on the back of each remaining folio, meaning that the complicated stories are often difficult to follow. This painting depicts the dismembered body of Hamza in the cave, following his death in battle at Mount Uhud.

The folio was acquired by Sir Raleigh Gilbert Egerton in Srinagar, Kashmir, in 1913.
Bibliographic References
  • STRONGE, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560 – 1660 London : V&A Publications, 2002. 192p, ill. ISBN 1 85177 358 4.p. 20, pl. 6 and detail p. 32, pl. 17
  • Swallow, D., Stronge, S., Crill, R., Koezuka, T., editor and translator, "The Art of the Indian Courts. Miniature Painting and Decorative Arts", Victoria & Albert Museum and NHK Kinki Media Plan, 1993.p. 33, cat. no. 7
Collection
Accession Number
IM.4-1921

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record createdDecember 23, 1999
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