The Young Akbar with a Hunting Party
Leaf from the Read Mughal Album, probably by Manohar
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
In 1589 the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) commissioned Abū al-Fażl to begin an account of his life. The result—the three-volume Akbarnāma, completed some seven years later—exists in at least three copies. This leaf was once part of the manuscript in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, which has paintings covering the period from the 1556 accession of the thirteen-year-old Akbar to the throne to 1579. According to Abū al-Fażl, Akbar's beard appeared when he was twenty-one, so the episode shown here probably occurred when, at age seventeen or eighteen, he left the army and headed to Lahore, hunting along the way. Akbar greets four men with falcons and is attended by men bearing a fan, sword, spear, quiver of arrows, and what appears to be a bow. A dog handler with two salukis occupies the lower right corner.
The Read Mughal Album
Pierpont Morgan purchased the Read Mughal album, along with a Persian album, from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, in 1911. The Morgan purchase consisted of thirty folios (including both Indian miniatures and the Mughal portraits presented here), but Read owned at least forty-eight others, now widely dispersed. The leaves were probably once bound in several lacquered bindings. The identity of their compiler has not been established, but many borders date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Mughal emperors of India commissioned biographies and were frequently portrayed by artists. Here the paintings are presented in the order of the emperor's reigns rather than the dates of the miniatures, starting with Bābur (r. 1526–30), the Muslim founder of the dynasty, and ending with Shāh Jahān (r. 1628–58), builder of the Taj Mahal.