Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum

A catalogue of the Ashmolean’s collection of Indian art by J. C. Harle and Andrew Topsfield (published Oxford, 1987).

Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum by J. C. Harle and Andrew Topsfield

Publications online: 143 objects

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The sage Uttanka in a river while the snake king steals the earrings

  • Literature notes

    As part of his plan to promote understanding between his Muslim and Hindu subjects. Akbar ordered that several Hindu texts, including the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, should be made available in Persian translation. Magnificent illustrated copies of each of the two epics were made for the imperial library and these are now in the Jaipur royal collection. Less splendid versions were copied and illustrated for the Mughal nobility, though few examples now survive. It has been suggested that the patron of the 1598 Razm-nāma manuscript could have been ‘Abd ur-Rahīm Khānkhānan. Akbar’s leading minister and a famous bibliophile who employed his own artists. However it is more likely that the manuscript, though not of full imperial quality and possibly destined for a nobleman’s library, was in fact produced in Akbar’s studio by younger apprentice artists many of them the sons of established painters.

    The scene illustrated here is an early episode from the first book of the Mahābhārata, in which, while the young sage Uttanka is fetching water, the snake-king Tasaka steals the earrings which have been given to Uttanka by Pausya’s queen. It is painted in the mature Akbari style, a synthesis of Persian, Indian and (especially in the landscape) European elements, but the colouring, with dominant grey and khaki tones is untypically muted. Āsa (or Āsi), son of Maheṣa, painted nine pages of this Razm-nāma and is known to have worked on several other manuscripts of the period.

    The manuscript was largely dispersed at auction in 1921. Five other pages are in the Museum’s collection, also the gift of Gerald Reitlinger.
  • Description

    To promote Muslim-Hindu understanding, Akbar ordered the Mahabharata epic and other classic Hindu texts to be translated into Persian, the court language. This manuscript may have been commissioned by his minister ‘Abd ur-Rahim Khankhanan.

  • Details

    Associated place
    AsiaIndia north India (place of creation)
    Date
    1598
    Mughal Period (1526 - 1858)
    Artist/maker
    Asi (active late 16th century) (artist)
    Associated people
    probably 'Abd ur-Rahim Khankhanan (1556 - 1626) (commissioner)
    Material and technique
    gouache on paper
    Dimensions
    mount 40.3 x 27.6 cm (height x width)
    page 29.7 x 16 cm (height x width)
    painting with border 20.2 x 10.8 cm (height x width)
    painting without border 19.6 x 10 cm (height x width)
    Material index
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    1
    Credit line
    Gift of Gerald Reitlinger, 1978.
    Accession no.
    EA1978.2591
  • Further reading

    Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987), no. 83 on p. 76, p. xiv, illus. p. 76

    Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 18 July-13 September 1981, and London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981, Eastern Ceramics and Other Works of Art from the Collection of Gerald Reitlinger: Catalogue of the Memorial Exhibition, Deborah Willis, ed. (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum and London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981), no. 404 on p. 143, illus. p. 143

Location

    • First floor | Room 33 | Mughal India

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.

 

Publications online

  • Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum by J. C. Harle and Andrew Topsfield

    Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum

    As part of his plan to promote understanding between his Muslim and Hindu subjects. Akbar ordered that several Hindu texts, including the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, should be made available in Persian translation. Magnificent illustrated copies of each of the two epics were made for the imperial library and these are now in the Jaipur royal collection. Less splendid versions were copied and illustrated for the Mughal nobility, though few examples now survive. It has been suggested that the patron of the 1598 Razm-nāma manuscript could have been ‘Abd ur-Rahīm Khānkhānan. Akbar’s leading minister and a famous bibliophile who employed his own artists. However it is more likely that the manuscript, though not of full imperial quality and possibly destined for a nobleman’s library, was in fact produced in Akbar’s studio by younger apprentice artists many of them the sons of established painters.

    The scene illustrated here is an early episode from the first book of the Mahābhārata, in which, while the young sage Uttanka is fetching water, the snake-king Tasaka steals the earrings which have been given to Uttanka by Pausya’s queen. It is painted in the mature Akbari style, a synthesis of Persian, Indian and (especially in the landscape) European elements, but the colouring, with dominant grey and khaki tones is untypically muted. Āsa (or Āsi), son of Maheṣa, painted nine pages of this Razm-nāma and is known to have worked on several other manuscripts of the period.

    The manuscript was largely dispersed at auction in 1921. Five other pages are in the Museum’s collection, also the gift of Gerald Reitlinger.
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