Akbar thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Akbar

Painting
ca. 1590-95 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This painting from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) travelling from Delhi to Agra by boat. Akbar is shown standing up within a royal box inside the boat. Several other boats carrying his entourage can also be seen in the painting. The Mughal court artist Tulsi designed the composition, and Narayan painted the details.

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Brief Description
Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar travels by boat to Agra, outline by Tulsi, painted by Narayan, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95
Physical Description
Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, depicting Akbar's journey to Agra by water in 1562. The image is overlaid by a caption of Persian text (four lines), extending from the left-hand side of the page.
Dimensions
  • Height: 33cm
  • Average width: 20cm
Folio measures 38.1cm x 22.4cm.
Content description
Akbar's journey to Agra by water in 1562.
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
(Contemporary librarian's attributions in Persian, in red ink in the margin below the painting.)
Object history
The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written by 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 Mrs. Frances Clarke, widow of Major GeneralJohn Clarke, an official who had been the Commissioner in India in the province 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.
Production
Composition by Tulsi; painted by Narayan.
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Association
Literary ReferenceAkbarnama
Summary
This painting from the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) travelling from Delhi to Agra by boat. Akbar is shown standing up within a royal box inside the boat. Several other boats carrying his entourage can also be seen in the painting. The Mughal court artist Tulsi designed the composition, and Narayan painted the details.



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.
Other Number
83 - Inscription/original number
Collection
Accession Number
IS.2:3-1896

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdOctober 6, 1998
Record URL