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Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan
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Three Peris Riding a Composite Elephant
From the Read Mughal Album. Mughal, possibly Kashmir, second half of the eighteenth century.
415 x 300 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911.; MS M.458.15.

Originally this page must have faced the miniature Peri riding the composite horse (see MS M.458.14 in the Read Mughal album), though they were later numbered 52 and 39. The composition of the elephant—especially the rabbit feet—is remarkable. Here, too, some of the tiny blue drawings can be identified, such as Lailā and Majnūn with animals, a hero borne by divs (demons), and Ibrāhīm Ibn Adham of Balkh (an eighth-century ruler) served by angels, the subject of another page in the album (see MS M.458.32). The matching borders contain an assortment of angels, some making music, along with birds, flowers, and armed horned demons.

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.


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