Akbar riding an elephant outside a fortress, accompanied by mounted troops: an illustrated page from the Akbarnama, India, Mughal, circa 1604, mounted in a folio from the Farhang-i Jahangiri, circa 1608-23
Provenance: Demotte, Paris, early 20th century
This miniature is from an illustrated copy of the Akbarnama completed around 1604. A large section of the manuscript, comprising volumes 2 and 3 and containing sixty-one miniatures, is in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ms.3 (hence it is often refered to as the "Beatty Akbarnama"), while volume 1, including thirty-nine miniatures, is in the British Library, Or.12988. The text, a biography of the emperor and a history of his reign, was written by Emperor Akbar's friend and prime minister Abu'l Fazl. The first edition was presented to Akbar in 1596, and there is evidence of a second illustrated edition of the 1590s, but few leaves are known and no study has yet taken place (see Leach 1998, no.10, Sotheby's, London, 3rd May 2001, lot 73) . It is not known for whom the "Beatty" copy of the Akbarnama was produced, but it has been suggested that it might have been Prince Salim, who succeeded his father as Emperor Jahangir in 1604, although Leach disputes this on strong grounds (Leach 1995, vol.I, p.241). It was suggested by Wilkinson that the manuscript was taken to Persia by Nadir Shah after his sack of Delhi in 1739, and by the early 20th century it was in the possession of the dealer Georges-Joseph Demotte in Paris, who extracted several miniatures and re-mounted them using leaves from the Farhang-i Jahangiri, the royal dictionary written for Emperor Jahangir by Jamal al-Din Husain Inju in 1608, much of which was also in Demotte's possession. (Demotte also used the decorated leaves of the Farhang-i Jahangiri as mounts for other important Mughal miniatures, including those of the Baburnama).
As well as volumes 2 and 3 of the 1604 Akbarnama, seven separated folios, all mounted into pages from the Farhang-i Jahangiri (as here) are also in the Chester Beatty Library, while two are in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (W.684A and B), one is in the Cincinnati Museum of Art (1949.150, Smart and Walker 1985, no.7), and others are in private collections. Several have appeared in the market over the last half century, all of them also mounted into leaves form the Farhang-i Jahangiri: Sotheby's, London, 6th December 1967, lot 124, 13th July 1971, lots 127-128; Sotheby's, New York, 25th March 1987, lots 183-186, 2nd November 1988, lot 102; Christie's, London, 25th April 1995, lots 8,8A; P and D Colnaghi, London, Persian and Mughal Art, 1976, nos.86i,ii,iii. For the fullest description and discussion of the whole manuscript see Leach 1995, vol.I, pp.232-300. See also Beach 1978, p.41. The Chester Beatty Library also has fifteen folios from the Farhang-i Jahangiri, see Leach 1995, vol.I, pp.321-324.