This exquisite drawing is executed in the nim-qalam
style favoured by artists towards the later part of Akbar's reign. Similar illustrations have appeared in several manuscripts dating from 1600 to 1605. The current lot relates closely to a nim-qalam
drawing in the V&A depicting Akbar hawking, dated circa 1600-05 (Stronge 2002, pl.75), another in the Goenka collection in Mumbai (Goswamy & Bhatia 1999, no.47) and another attributed to Sur Das sold through these rooms 17 June 1993, lot 166. All these illustrations are finely drawn and heightened with a subtle use of colour wash and gold. The elephant in the present example is particularly well rendered, he possesses a mischievous smile as he chases the fleeing attendants, his elaborate ostrich feather headdress and saddlecloth billowing in the wind.
Elephants were highly prized in the Mughal court and according to Abu'l Fazl, Akbar had 101 elephants for his personal use alone. A well known painting from the first Akbarnama shows the Emperor riding the elephant Hawa'i across a collapsing bridge of boats (op.cit. pl.49). Named portraits of elephants appeared from the seventeenth century onwards, a number of which are in the Hodgkin collection (see Topsfield 2012, nos.20-25).