Two panels of black ink Nasta'liq script in Persian within gold ruled lines at top read:
"Chon an maheh jahan ara baramad / Zejanash banke ya boshra baramad"
(Once the beautiful moon face was rescued, they rejoiced and celebrated)
The young and handsome prophet Yusef is rescued from the raised well by four men as they struggle to pull him to safety. Another places his index finger to his lips in astonishment at the good fortune before them. A baobab tree with its numerous vertical root systems and reaching branches bursts with green leaves. Finely stylized rock formations in mauve and pink, a visual motif brought to India by Persian-trained artists during the previous century, spreads in the middle distance. Colorful tents beyond and a blue sky above.
Mounted within outer borders from a folio of the dispersed Farhang-i Jahangiri, a lexicon in Persian circa 1618-19 created for the Emperor Jahangir, its borders decorated with depictions of birds and animals. A tiger attacks a buck as deer and rabbits leap away - a peacock and peahens. Interweaving leaf and floral sprays in black ink with gold. Sixteen complete folios from the lexicon are in the collection of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (cat. I, Ms. XXXIII).
The depiction of this well and baobab tree recalls a painting from the Baburnama circa 1590-92 depicting the Mughal Emperor Babur's well-known visit in 1519 to Bigram and the cave at Gur Khattri - with its famous Baobab tree and enclosed well - similarly depicted as the setting in our painting (British Library Or. 3714, f.320v). Iconographically, the theme of loss and rescue is echoed in the Shah Nama of Firdausi, telling the story of "Rustam and the Rescue of Bizhan from the Well" a story certainly appreciated by the Mughals. Our painting is not from a known or published series - it may have been intended as an individual work depicting the famous narrative.
For related works, see E. Binney III, The Mughal and Deccani Schools, Portland, 1973, p. 72-3, cat. 20 and cat. 46 a/b, pp. 72-73 (Farhang-i Jahangiri). For Mughal painting during the early 17th century, see M. C. Beach, The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India 1600-1660, Williamstown, 1978; M. C. Beach, The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court, Washington D.C., 1981; and M. C. Beach, 'Indian Painting from 1575-1650', p. 111-118, in M. C. Beach, E. Fischer and B. N. Goswamy, Masters of Indian Painting 1100-1650, Artibus Asiae Sup., 2015.
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