Fifteen jewel-like miniature paintings—with enlarged details—and thirteen pages of exquisitely calligraphed poetry are reproduced here from a diminutive manuscript commissioned by Akbar the Great, the third Mughal emperor of India. The manuscript, which measures only 5 1/2 by 27/8 inches, was made in 1588, the thirty-third year of Akbar's reign, when the emperor was at the height of his power. The tiny paintings are the work of Akbar's court artists, many of whom were trained by Persian artists brought to India by Humayun, Akbar's father. A brilliant blend of Persian and Indian influences marks the work of these Mughal painters; their miniatures combine extreme delicacy of line with intense colors and complex compositions—some of which demonstrate the artists' understanding of the European concept of perspective. The various small paintings convey the whimsy, vigor, and lyrical quality of the poems they illustrate. The poems are by Auhaduddin Anvari, the greatest Persian panegyrist of the twelfth century. In her commentary on the poems and in her essay on Anvari's work and life, Annemarie Schimmel, the Museum's special consultant for Islamic art, offers insights into Anvari's complex and sometimes caustic works and gives new translations of many of the poems. Stuart Cary Welch has written an engaging account of Akbar's life and times that includes a history of the Mughal dynasty and of the court ateliers where this delightful Divan was produced.
(This title was originally published in 1982/83.)
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