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Recto: Two lines of nasta'liq script in black on painting (which is laid down on later borders.). The inscription reads: [Qoch Beg] and his brothers performed well. We camped on a rise a league from Pishkaran.
Verso: Calligraphic leaf of poetry in nasta'liq script from from Jāmī’s Khiradnāma-i Iskandarī, the last of the septet Haft Aurang.
This lively encampment scene belongs to a dispersed Baburnama, the memoirs of Babur (1483–1530), the founder of the Mughal Dynasty (1526 – 1857). Babur began the record in 1494, when he was eleven years old, and continued writing until 1529, the year before his death. In it, he chronicles journeys, battles and alliances in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, while openly conveying his personality and vividly describing the flora and fauna of the subcontinent. It is considered the first autobiography of the Islamic world.
Babur’s grandson Akbar (reigned 1556 – 1605) had the memoirs translated into Persian by the courtier Abd al-Rahim, Khan Khanan (commander in chief) in 1589. Akbar’s atelier subsequently produced multiple Baburnama manuscripts; six are known. This folio comes from a manuscript that is variously called the “First,” the “South Kensington” and the “Dispersed” Baburnama. The manuscript originally had almost six-hundred folios and at least 191 paintings.
The Persian inscription -- [Qoch Beg] and his brothers performed well. We camped on a rise a league from Pishkaran -- allows us to identify the scene, which depicts the seventeen-year prince relaxing after his defeat of Pishkaran, in Uzbekistan, in February, 1500. Babur, wearing a gold crown and looking quite young, appears in the tent in the upper right corner of the scene. The green-robed man with Babur may be Qoch Beg, the courtier named in the inscription. Qoch Beg, along with his brothers had made Babur’s conquest of Pishkaran possible by distracting the enemy.
With its high-horizon line, birds-eye perspective, and relatively small and broadly gesticulating figures, the painting epitomizes the style of the Akbari atelier in the late sixteenth century. To depict a scene that had taken place in Uzbekistan almost half a century earlier, Akbar’s atelier deployed standard motifs, including a cluster of tents, a servant pounding in a tent stake and a sleeping figure to convey the hustle and bustle of a royal encampment.
- Collection Area(s)
- South Asian and Himalayan Art
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