Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
A Prince And A Hermit
Mughal, circa 1595 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper
26.5 x 20.2 cm
Amir Shahi (Aqa Malik ibn Amir Jamal al-Din Firuzkuhi of Sabzavar, d. 1453 CE) was a poet and calligrapher at the court of the bibliophile Timurid prince Baysunghur (d. 1433 CE) in Herat (modern Afghanistan). His work, however, enjoyed acclaim among the Mughal royalty in India as well. Anthony Welch has attributed the style of this painting to that of the royal atelier in Lahore under the reign of Akbar (r. 1556-1605 CE) and, more specifically, to the artist Miskin (Welch and Welch 1982, p. 176). The scene depicts a young princely figure and a large group of attendants, dressed and prepared for the hunt but stopping at a hermit’s cave. The royal figure may represent Akbar’s son Selim, who succeeded his father as emperor under the name Jahangir (r. 1605-27 CE). The skilful handling of detail from landscape elements to the architecture of the distant city beyond the mountains, in addition to the careful modelling of each figure’s individual features and expressions, is remarkable. The overall atmosphere is defined by sharply outlined textile patterns, jewels, and rock faces, all of which provide an appealing textural contrast to the softer outlines of the trees, animal coats, and shading throughout the scene. Such superb quality is typical of late sixteenth-century Mughal illustrated literary manuscripts, many of which were produced in smaller sizes but with a higher level of refinement. The two couplets at the top and bottom of the painting have been attributed to the hand of ‛Abd al-Rahim al-Haravi, the famous “Anbarin Qalam” (Welch and Welch 1982, p. 179). The top one reads, “I am the sacred parrot who remains imprisoned in a cage / where is the mirror of your visage so that I can speak?”, while the bottom reads, “No longer will I give away my royal treasures / lest I should die from the desert of your love.”
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