Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

(Formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India)

Folios from an illustrated manuscript of Anwar-i-Suhayli

Folios from an illustrated manuscript of Anwar-i-Suhayli

Anwar-i-Suhayli is a Persian translation by Vaiz Kashifi of Kalilah-wa-Damnah, an Arabic version of the Panchtantra, an old Indian Fable. This richly illustrated manuscript was commissioned by Emperor Akbar - the great Mughal ruler.

In the second half of the 19th century, this manuscript was in the library of the Honorable Mountstuart Elphinstone in Poona which caught fire. This manuscript consisting of over two hundred illustrations, was saved and though badly damaged, some art lover retrieved the less damaged folios by mounting them on a uniform size paper which were bound in an album form. Sir Alma Latifi, a member of the Indian Civil Service, purchased this album at a sale of Sotheby’s in London in 1938, and it was bequeathed to the Museum in 1973 by the family. A few loose folios of the manuscript have dispersed. Not a single folio has remained intact. However, the artistic quality of the surviving 231 paintings, some of which are mere tidbits, suggests a well-planned and organised production under the supervision of a master artist, who in all probability could be Abd-al Samad.

The manuscript can be considered a landmark in the naturalistic and masterly studies of animals and birds. A whole world of animals and birds unfolds before us as they are seen running and chasing, holding assemblies and consultations, conspiring against others and even participating in human affairs. The Mughal style is seen completely liberated from the Persian idiom and has achieved an identity of its own as naturalistic painting. There is no doubt that a large number of real study drawings must have been made by the artists to portray them so effectively and realistically, in varied actions and moods. In that respect the manuscript is an original creation of the Mughal atelier revealing considerable imagination in the rendering and composition of the paintings.

Gift of Smt. Alma Latifi from the Collection of Dr. Alma Latifi

Provenance: Mughal

Date: C.1575 CE

Accession Number: 73.5/62

Gardener and the Bear

The painting illustrates the story of friendship between a gardener and a bear, proving the old saying that a wise enemy is in every way better than an ignorant friend.

A folio from this collection is on display in the Indian Miniature Painting Gallery