Akbar

Painting
ca. 1590-95 (made)
Akbar  thumbnail 1
Akbar  thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) hunting at Palam, near Delhi, and is half of a double-page composition (with IS.2:71-1896). The event takes place after the great Mughal victory over the seemingly impregnable Rajput fortress of Chitor in February 1568. The Hindu forces defending Chitor had put up fierce resistance, for which Akbar made them pay a heavy price: on his orders nearly 30,000 men were killed, and many prisoners were taken. No other campaign would be concluded in the same way, and these extremely harsh reprisals made other rulers capitulate quickly in subsequent conflicts. Later that year, the emperor set out from Agra to attack the similarly daunting fort at Ranthambhor, but paused en route at Delhi. Here, he visited holy shrines and hunted at nearby Palam. The author of the Akbarnama, Abu'l Fazl, describes the different purposes served by hunting. A primary aim was to provide an opportunity for the emperor to assess the qualities of his men when under pressure and in danger, which allowed him to deploy them to best advantage in battle. Hunting provided a pretext for Akbar to arrive without warning in different parts of his domains to see for himself that they were being administered fairly. It also allowed him to move large numbers of armed men into areas of potential rebellion as a silent threat, which was often enough to avoid a military confrontation. Abu'l Fazl mentions this hunt only briefly in his text, but records that it took the elaborate form of a 'qamargah, in which beaters were sent out over a huge area and then moved back towards its centre, trapping the animals within a circular space. It was the emperor’s prerogative to hunt them, and the elite of the court could only participate at his invitation. The qamargah was a Timurid form of hunting, and it may be significant that Akbar chose to follow this model practised by his ancestors just before his imminent major campaign against Ranthambhor. The designer of the composition (tarh) was Mukund, whom Abu'l Fazl included in his list of the greatest painters of the age. On this folio, the colours were added by Narayan.


The Akbarnama was commissioned in 1589 by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign, and was written in Persian by Abu’l Fazl between 1590 and 1596. The V&A’s partial copy of the manuscript is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1595 and is considered to be the earliest illustrated version of the text. It drew on 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 acquired 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 hunting at Palam, outline by Mukund, painting by Narain, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1590-95
Physical Description
Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, this is the left side of a double page composition (with IS.2-71-1896) depicting a scene from a royal hunt that took place at Palam, near Delhi, in 1568. On this page, bearers and courtiers encircle the animals within the enclosure that entraps them.
Dimensions
  • Folio height: 38.1cm
  • Folio width: 22.4cm
Content description
A scene from a royal hunt that took place at Palam, near Delhi, in 1568. On this page, bearers and courtiers encircle the animals within the enclosure that entraps them.
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
'Tarh Mukund/Amal Narayan' (This is a contemporary librarian's attribution in red ink at the centre of the border at the bottom.)
Gallery Label
AKBAR HUNTING AT PALAM, NEAR DELHI Illustration to the Akbarnama Opaque watercolour and gold on paper Mughal, composition designed by Mukund, painted by Narayan c. 1590-95 IS.2:70-1896 Palam was an imperial hunting ground. This hunt which took place in 1568 is depicted in a double-page composition. It took the form of a qamargah, the name of a hunt enjoyed by Akbar’s Central Asian ancestors. Beaters first spread out across a vast circle of land and then moved back towards the centre, trapping the animals. The emperor and his closest companions then went in for the kill.(27/9/2013)
Object history
The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as an official chronicle of his reign in an order given to his friend, the scholar Abu'l Fazl, in 1589, and these illustrations were painted between about 1590 and 1596 by at least forty-nine different artists from Akbar's studio as the historian wrote and rewrote his text. After Akbar's death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir. The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from the widow of Major General John Clarke, who had bought the manuscript in Lucknow while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.



Historical significance: This is thought to be the first illustrated copy of the Akbarnama and includes the work of the finest royal painters of the time, many of whom receive special mention by Abu'l Fazl in the A'in-i-Akbari, the third and last volume of the Akbarnama. The inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings refer to the artists and indicate that this was a royal copy.



Calza, Gian Carlo (ed.) Akbar: the great emperor of India. Rome : Fondazione, Roma Museo, 2012. ISBN 978-88-572-1525-9 (hard cover edition); ISBN 978-88-572-1793-2 (soft cover edition). p.254, cat. no.IV.3.
Production
Composition by Mukund, painted by Narayan.

Subjects depicted
Association
Literary ReferenceAkbarnama
Summary
This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) hunting at Palam, near Delhi, and is half of a double-page composition (with IS.2:71-1896). The event takes place after the great Mughal victory over the seemingly impregnable Rajput fortress of Chitor in February 1568. The Hindu forces defending Chitor had put up fierce resistance, for which Akbar made them pay a heavy price: on his orders nearly 30,000 men were killed, and many prisoners were taken. No other campaign would be concluded in the same way, and these extremely harsh reprisals made other rulers capitulate quickly in subsequent conflicts. Later that year, the emperor set out from Agra to attack the similarly daunting fort at Ranthambhor, but paused en route at Delhi. Here, he visited holy shrines and hunted at nearby Palam. The author of the Akbarnama, Abu'l Fazl, describes the different purposes served by hunting. A primary aim was to provide an opportunity for the emperor to assess the qualities of his men when under pressure and in danger, which allowed him to deploy them to best advantage in battle. Hunting provided a pretext for Akbar to arrive without warning in different parts of his domains to see for himself that they were being administered fairly. It also allowed him to move large numbers of armed men into areas of potential rebellion as a silent threat, which was often enough to avoid a military confrontation. Abu'l Fazl mentions this hunt only briefly in his text, but records that it took the elaborate form of a 'qamargah, in which beaters were sent out over a huge area and then moved back towards its centre, trapping the animals within a circular space. It was the emperor’s prerogative to hunt them, and the elite of the court could only participate at his invitation. The qamargah was a Timurid form of hunting, and it may be significant that Akbar chose to follow this model practised by his ancestors just before his imminent major campaign against Ranthambhor. The designer of the composition (tarh) was Mukund, whom Abu'l Fazl included in his list of the greatest painters of the age. On this folio, the colours were added by Narayan.





The Akbarnama was commissioned in 1589 by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign, and was written in Persian by Abu’l Fazl between 1590 and 1596. The V&A’s partial copy of the manuscript is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1595 and is considered to be the earliest illustrated version of the text. It drew on 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 acquired it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.
Associated Object
Bibliographic Reference
Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor. The Art of the Book 1560-1660, V&A Publications, London, 2002, p. 57, pl. 38 (left). Shaha Parpia, “Mughal Hunting Grounds: Landscape Manipulation and ‘Garden’ Association”, in Garden History, Journal of The Gardens Trust, vol. 44:2(2016), 171-190. Illustrated (both pages of the composition), Fig. 2.
Other Number
156 - inscription/original number
Collection
Accession Number
IS.2:70-1896

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record createdNovember 11, 1998
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