Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Elephants By The River
Mughal, c. 1589 CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour, gold and ink on paper
Page 34 x 22.5 cm; Image 22.5 x 13.7 cm
Elephants frolic and feed in a serene verdant landscape inhabited only by ducks and birds. The Mughal emperor Babur was deeply impressed by the extraordinary creatures he found in his newly conquered lands and wrote about them in his memoirs (Baburnama). In a section entitled ‘Animals that are Peculiar to Hindustan: Beasts’, Babur describes the elephant as follows: ‘One of the beasts is the elephant, which the Hindustanis call hathi. They are found on the borderlands of Kalpi. The farther east one goes from there, the more wild elephants there are. Elephants are captured and brought from those regions’ (quoted in Canby 1998, p. 116). Kanha, the painting’s talented designer, was responsible for several other illustrations from this section of the Baburnama, and a number of animal paintings from other manuscripts produced between 1580 CE and 1590 CE are also ascribed to him.
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