View full screen - View 1 of Lot 425. TWENTY-NINE ILLUMINATED LEAVES FROM A MAGNIFICENT ROYAL ALBUM, INDIA, MUGHAL, LATE AKBAR PERIOD, CIRCA 1600.
425

TWENTY-NINE ILLUMINATED LEAVES FROM A MAGNIFICENT ROYAL ALBUM, INDIA, MUGHAL, LATE AKBAR PERIOD, CIRCA 1600

TWENTY-NINE ILLUMINATED LEAVES FROM A MAGNIFICENT ROYAL ALBUM, INDIA, MUGHAL, LATE AKBAR PERIOD, CIRCA 1600

TWENTY-NINE ILLUMINATED LEAVES FROM A MAGNIFICENT ROYAL ALBUM, INDIA, MUGHAL, LATE AKBAR PERIOD, CIRCA 1600

A section from an Royal Mughal Album


TWENTY-NINE ILLUMINATED LEAVES FROM A MAGNIFICENT ROYAL ALBUM, INDIA, MUGHAL, LATE AKBAR PERIOD, CIRCA 1600


29 leaves in two volumes (19 and 10 folios respectively), each page with single or multiple panels of large and small nasta'liq calligraphy written horizontally, diagonally and vertically in black ink (one instance of white ink) on cream, buff, brown, blue, grey and pink paper, many decorated with gold foliate motifs or birds, many panels of marbled paper, three panels with dates of 974/1566, 998/1589-90, 999/1590-91 and 1002/1593 respectively, one page with a drawing of dervishes ascribed to Shankar, borders of stout cream, blue, pink and buff paper finely decorated in gold with birds and animals amidst foliage, scrolling foliate motifs, cartouches, cloud collars and geometric designs, several pages with catchwords, most folios with Persian numbers in margins in pencil and some in red ink, one frontispiece page fully illuminated in colours and gold, later red leather bindings


(2)


36.6-36.9 by 23.8cm.

Generally in good condition. Some minor stains. Paper repairs to edges and corners in places. 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.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

These folios are from a magnificent, large royal Mughal album produced in the last years of Emperor Akbar's reign, about 1600. It is known from three large sections and a small number of dispersed single folios.


The largest group, consisting of thirty-seven folios, was sold in these rooms on 18 October 1995, lot 68. It was formerly in a private collection in Europe in the 1960s and is now in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. The next largest group is the present group, consisting of twenty-nine folios in two volumes. The third of the substantial groups, consisting of twenty-three folios, is in the Royal Library, Windsor, acquired before 1728 (RCIN.1005039, 1005042-1005049, 1005050-1005064, Hannam 2018, pp.64-79, 241 fn.10). In addition, two single folios were also sold in these rooms on 18 October 1995, lots 90 and 91, and six single folios were sold at Christie's London, 17 April 2007, lots 211-5, 218. However, two of those at Christie's (lots 212 and 213) had previously appeared as lots 90 and 91 in Sotheby's October 1995 sale, so the group at Christie's contained only four additional folios. Finally, one of these single folios appeared again at Christie's, 26 April 2012, lot 12, but since it had already appeared at auction twice before it did not add to the total number count. There are therefore ninety-five folios from this album currently known.


The album as a whole is dominated by works of calligraphy, written entirely in nasta'liq script of varying sizes, from the minute to the very large. The great majority are signed by the royal calligrapher Muhammad Husain Kashmiri, known as Zarin Qalam (Golden Pen), considered by Akbar to be the greatest master of the period. In the Ain-i Akbari Abu'l Fazl describes him thus:

"The artist who, in the shadow of the throne of His Majesty, has become a master of calligraphy is Muhammad Husain of Kashmir. He has been honoured with the title Zarrinqalam, the gold pen. He surpassed his master maulana Abdul-Aziz...., art critics consider him equal to Mulla Mir Ali" (Ain-i Akbari, vol.1, pp.102-3).


One of the calligraphies by Muhammad Husain Kashmiri is dated 998 AH/1589-90 AD and another 999 AH/1590-91 AD. Other calligraphers whose work is represented among the present folios include contemporary royal Mughal calligraphers as well as Persian masters of previous generations, as follows: Abd al-Rahim al-Haravi Anbarin Qalam (Amber Pen) (one panel dated 1002 AH/1593 AD), Abdallah al-Husaini, Fakhr al-Din, Ahmad al-Husaini, Mir Ali, Mahmud ibn Ishaq al-Shahabi (one panel dated 974 AH/1566 AD), Sultan Muhammad Khandan, Sultan Muhammad Nur, Sultan Ali (al-Mashhadi). A small number are unsigned.


The album as a whole also included a significant number of drawings by royal artists including Basawan, Daswanth, Dhanraj, Kesu, La'l, Bhagwati and Shankar. These are mostly in the group of folios at Windsor, but one is present here and others are among the dispersed leaves. Some are full-page drawings and others are on smaller panels alongside calligraphies. The drawing in the present group of leaves is a study of three dervishes in a landscape, ascribed to Shankar, and is placed sideways on a page with two panels of calligraphy. The artist Shankar was a member of the royal atelier during the second half of Akbar's reign and perhaps the early years of Jahangir's. His career began around 1582 and he contributed to many of the great royal manuscripts of the 1580s and 1590s, including the Timurnama, Darabnama, Razmnama, Ramayana, two manuscripts of the Baburnama, the first and second Akbarnama manuscripts, and the Iyar-i Danish. For further information on Shankar see Verma 1994, pp.348-352; Leach 1995, vol.II, p.1117.


The present leaves and the album as a whole are notable for the variety, complexity and quality of the design and decoration of the pages, both in terms of the exquisite gold-decorated borders and the arrangement and decoration of the calligraphic panels. The panels on which the calligraphies are written consist of cream, buff, brown, blue, grey and pink paper. Some of the papers are plain, but many have been decorated prior to the writing of the calligraphy with gold foliage or scrolling motifs (i.e. the gold decoration is underneath the script). Most of these are freehand drawings, but some appear to be stencilled. A few have small gold birds painted among the lines of calligraphy (probably painted after the script), and there is widespread use of gold sprinkling and gold flecking. A particularly notable feature is the extensive use of marbled papers for the calligraphic panels. Even within the marbled papers there is a great variety of techniques and designs.


The borders also feature a variety of coloured papers, including cream, blue, salmon-pink, and buff. Some of these are plain, but the majority are painted in gold with one of five types of decoration: animals and birds amidst foliage and rocky outcrops; dense stylised foliage devoid of animals or birds; scrolling foliate motifs; lobed cartouches; small geometric designs with cloud rosettes. In general these designs show the background influence of Persian and Central Asian manuscript traditions of the sixteenth century, which had been absorbed into the Mughal repertoire during Akbar's reign (see Wright 2008, pp.46-53). More pertinently, all of the designs present on these leaves, both in terms of specific design elements and their variety, appear in royal Mughal manuscripts of the 1590s. The closest comparisons are to be found in the Baharistan of Jami of 1595 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Elliott 254, see Topsfield 2008); the Khamsa of Nizami of 1595 (British Library, Or.12088, see Brend 1995); and the Diwan of Hafiz of circa 1600-05 (Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, Per.150, see Wright 2008, pp.230-1), although the present borders lack the human figures that feature in the Oxford, London and Dublin manuscripts.


The group of twenty-three folios in Windsor entered the Royal Collection before 1728 as loose leaves (Hannam 2018, p.64), indicating that the album was dispersed by that date. The disjointed sequence of folios in the three substantial groups of leaves further indicates that the original album was disbound, dispersed and rebound in different groupings early in its history, a factor confirmed by the different positions, hands and inks of the numbering in the margins across the various groups of leaves. It is also interesting to note that the borders of the folios in the Royal Collection are in many cases in poorer condition that those of the folios that have appeared on the market, with staining, worming and some surface abrasions. This implies that the group of leaves in Windsor had a different biography in the period prior to 1728 from sections that have appeared at auction. 


We are indebted to Marcus Fraser for cataloguing this lot.