The World of Animals

Artist: Miskin (active late 1570s–ca. 1604)
Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Akbar, ca. 1590
Mughal Court
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H x W: 33.8 x 21.7 cm (13 5/16 x 8 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf with painting

antelope, bird, camel, dragon, elephant, fish, horse, illumination, India, lion, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), phoenix, Reign of Akbar (1556 - 1605), rhinoceros, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

This extraordinary drawing represents an animal kingdom in which peace and harmony reign supreme, and in which lion and antelope, ostrich and dragon, elephant and crocodile can live side by side. The fine workmanship is representative of the acute observation and refined talent of the master artists of Akbar's (r.1556-1605) atelier. Noted artist Miskin has included nearly one hundred creatures in this study and has given each loving attention.

The upper levels of the drawing feature a range of birds, including a stunning phoenix; the large central area is occupied by land animals: elephants, tigers, lions, camels, deer, goats, sheep, monkeys, bears and cats. The lowest zone portrays creatures of the sea: crocodiles, crabs, turtles, fish, seals. Tinted drawings such as this were known in Persian as nim qalam, or "half pen," and were popular with the Mughals; they are not preparatory drawings. The margin decoration of ducks and cranes in a landscape, produced as was customary by an artist who specialized in borders, harmonizes with the central theme.

Published References
  • M.A. Alvi, A. Rahman. Jahangir: The Naturalist. New Delhi. pl. 1.
  • Richard Ettinghausen. Studies in Muslim Iconography I: The Unicorn. vol. 1, no. 3 Washington. pl. 37.
  • Edgar Blochet. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Persian Paintings...held at the Gallery Demotte Inc. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 173, p. 10.
  • Anand Krishna. A Living Hereditary Artist of the Mughal School. New Delhi, 1955-1956. cat. nos. 1-2, pp. 77-78, pl. 19.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. The Brush of the Masters: Drawings from Iran and India. Exh. cat. Washington, 1978. cat. 70, pp. 116-117.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. cat. 19, pp. 125, 192.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd ed. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 45, pp.172-174, fig. 47.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Worlds within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran
Google Cultural Institute
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