Lot 10
  • 10

A royal horse attended by three grooms, Mughal, circa 1575-90

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • gouache on paper with drawing
  • 16.5 by 13.5cm.
gouache with gold on paper, inscriptions on margin and ownership notes and seals on verso


In generally good condition, the colours are brighter than in the catalogue, some minor flaking near the tail, and on white paint. Minor bubbling on green edge of saddle, some wear particularly around the edges, very light creases in background, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This scene of an elegant royal horse attended by grooms, one of whom is shoeing him with golden nails, is painted in a style that can be associated with the artists of the Hamzanama, the monumental series of paintings made for Emperor Akbar between approximately 1560 and 1580.

For summaries of the various theories on the dating of the Hamzanama, see Leach 1986, p.39, note 9; Stronge 2002, p.177, note 35; Losty in Beach, Fischer and Goswamy 2011, vol.I, pp.72-3; Rhie Quintanilla with Fraser 2016, pp.174-176. The present work has recently been attributed by John Seyller to Mukhlis, one of the probable artists of the Hamzanama, who continued painting into the 1590s, contributing to the Jaipur Razmnama, the British Library Darabnama (Or.4615), the Bodleian Library Baharistan, and the Victoria and Albert Museum Akbarnama.

The popularity of horse portraits, often showing the horse with one or more grooms or attendants, grew from Persian origins in the sixteenth century and spread to India with the influx of Safavid artists and taste after Humayun's sojourn at Shah Tahmasp's court. Abd al-Samad, one of the artists brought to India by Humayun, was famous for his paintings of horses (see Canby 1998), and he was also the second director of Akbar's Hamzanama project. His prowess and predilection for painting horses clearly inspired his junior colleagues, for a lively painting of a horse and groom by Mah Muhammad shows his influence (see Seyller 2002, cat.14, pp.72-73, Canby 1998, fig.5, p.21), as does the present work.

The present painting is one of four in this catalogue that have similar library notes and seals on their versos and all seem to have been transferred to the Mewar collection in the late seventeenth century (see lots 1, 11 and 12). Three other works from the same group have been sold in these rooms in the past (23 April 1996, lot 5, 8 October 2008, lot 44, and 20 April 2016, lot 49). The notes and seals on the reverse contain the following information:

During Jahangir’s reign it was inspected in regnal year 8 (1613) and regnal year 10 (1615).

During Shah Jahan’s reign it was inspected on regnal year 8 (1635).
In the collection of Asaf Khan Khan-e Khanan (brother of Nur Jahan, thus Jahangir's brother-in-law, and father of Mumtaz Mahal, thus father-in-law of Shah Jahan).
Re-entered the Royal Mughal Library under the care of Muhammad Sharif in regnal year 15 (1642).
Entrusted to the care of Shams al-Din in regnal year 18 (1645).
Inspected in regnal year 24 (1650).
Inspected in regnal year 29 (1655).

Inspection note under Alamgir in 1069 AH (1659) accompanied by the seal of Azizullah (still using the Shah Jahani epithet).
Inspected in regnal year 7 (1666).
Seal impression of Sayyid Ali al-Husaini dated 1075 (1664-65).

Mewari inventory number 24/59 and a clerical note dated 1111 AH (1699-1700).

For the importance of Mughal Library inspection notes and valuations, see John Seyller 1997, pp. 243-349. For information about Mewari inventory inscriptions see Topsfield 1995.