"Diving Dipper and Other Birds", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album
Painting by Mansur (active ca. 1589–1626)
recto: ca. 1610–15; verso: ca. 1535–45
Attributed to India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 15 3/8 in. (39.1 cm)
W. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Not on view
Frequently praised in Jahangir’s memoirs, the artist Mansur painted many of the natural wonders the emperor saw during his travels. Jahangir wrote of his discovery of the Diving Dipper: "I ordered them to catch two or three of these birds, that I might ascertain whether they were waterfowl and were web-footed, or had open feet like land birds. They caught two . . . One died immediately, and the other lived for a day. Its feet were not webbed like a duck’s. I ordered [nadir al-asr] Ustad Mansur to draw its likeness."
MMA 184.108.40.206 verso–Calligraphy
THIS PAGE contains two and a half verses from one of the most famous ghazals by Hafiz:
Come, for the castle of hope has a very weak foundation! Bring wine, for life is built on wind. I am the servant of the lofty ambition of him who, under the blue sky, Is free from anything that takes the color of attachment. How do I tell you that yesterday in the wine house, completely drunk ...
The pun in the second line is on bada (wine) and bad (wind). The second verse expresses the necessity of complete detachment from the world.
The page, which at first sight looks like an original album page, consists of five lines that have been cut out and pasted on the paper. Parts of the same famous poem by Hafiz are found in five slanting lines in V&A 137–1921, and the poem's end, again in five lines, is preserved in CB 7/5 v.
A ghazal by Shahi appears in the small cartouches.
Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]
ON THIS VERSO calligraphy page the design of the main border is a wide interlacing riband scroll outlined in gold with gold palmettes, flowers, and leaves both on it and in the interstices, with superimposed oval cartouches with pink floral forms and cloud bands on a gold ground. The same basic border design is also found on MMA fol. 18 v (pl. 51 in this volume), the recto side of which has gold plants on blue. On fol. 18v, however, colors on a buff ground are used, and the drawing is very different. Here the riband scroll is broader, with a thin and then thicker double outline and lush palmettes that are not found on fol. 18v. The only leaf with gold-on-blue plants on the picture side and what might be called an all-over design in gold on pink on the calligraphy side is MMA fol. 20 (pls. 53 and 54 in this volume). It is certainly possible that fols. 16 and 20 originally belonged to the same album, with the dancing dervishes (MMA fol. 18r; pl. 52 in this volume) and the portrait of the Khankhanan (FGA 39.50a; pl. 20 in this volume) belonging together in a separate album.
Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]
MMA 220.127.116.11 recto–Diving Dipper and Other Birds
INSCRIBED (in fine nasta'liq): (on upper rock) Jahangirshahi; (on rock on riverbank) "work ['amal] of the servant of the palace Nadir al-'asr Mansur the painter"
JAHANGIR's penchant for flora and fauna was perfectly served by Mansur in this composition of four birds by a stream, beyond which loom peaks reminiscent of the lunar mountainscape observable from Kashmir to Ladakh. Two of the birds fish–one diving in the manner of the saj described below by the emperor; the other vigorously attacking a fleeing minnow.
Few artists were singled out for praise in Jahangir's memoirs, but the one most often cited was Mansur. The first of four passages devoted to him in the Tuzuk follows the single one about Abu'l-Hasan: "Also, Ustad [Master] Mansur has become such a master in painting that he has the title of Nadiru-l-'asr [Wonder of the Age], and in the art of drawing is unique in his generation. In the time of my father's reign and my own these two have had no third." In 1619 Mansur is mentioned again: "The King of Persia [Shah 'Abbas] had sent with Pari Beg Mir Shikar (chief huntsman) one falcon (shungar) of good colour. [It] got mauled by a cat due to the carelessness of the Mir Shikar. Though it was brought to court, it did not live more than a week. What can I write of the beauty and colour of this falcon? There were many beautiful black markings on each wing, and back, and sides. As it was something out of the common, I ordered Ustad Mansur, who has the title of Nadir al-'asr (Wonder of the Age) to paint and preserve its likeness."
Jahangir's next reference to the artist follows an enthusiastic account of Kashmir: "This year [A.D. 1620], in the little garden of the palace and on the roof of the chief mosque, the tulips blossomed luxuriantly. There are many blue jessamines in the gardens, and the white jessamines that the people of India call chambili are sweet-scented .... I saw several sorts of red roses: one is specially sweet-scented .... The flowers that are seen in the territories of Kashmir are beyond all calculation. Those that Nadir al-'asr Ustad Mansur has painted are more than 100."
In 1620, while in Kashmir, Jahangir wrote:"I rode to see Sukh Nag. It is a beautiful summer residence (ilaq). This waterfall is in the midst of a valley, and flows down from a lofty place. The entertainment of Thursday was arranged for in that flower-land, and I was delighted at drinking my usual cups on the edge of the water. In this stream I saw a bird like a saj. [I]t dives and remains for a long time underneath, and then comes up from a different place. I ordered them to catch and bring two or three of these birds, that I might ascertain whether they were waterfowl and were web-footed, or had open feet like land birds. They caught two .... One died immediately, and the other lived for a day. Its feet were not webbed like a duck's. I ordered Nadiru'l-'asr Ustad Mansur to draw its likeness."
Mansur's career and style are further discussed in the texts for pls. 41, 45, and 47 in this volume.
Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]
THIS RECTO PAINTING has the margin number 40 and belongs to Group A. It shows birds by a stream and a dipper (Cinclus) in the water. It has no cutout poetry but has the usual palmette, flower-head, and leaf-scroll border in gold on a pink ground. The outer border of gold flowers on a blue ground is one of the finest in the album. An iris can be identified in the lower left comer and perhaps a double tulip in the center of the outer border. The plant in the lower left corner may be identified as Lilium and the one seen from the top in the inner border perhaps as Ipomoea. The plants are large in scale and bold in design yet exquisitely painted with subtle shading and very fine brushstrokes. Little plants and grass tufts are scattered throughout, and flying insects and butterflies abound. Windblown clouds sail across the top of the page. There is something particularly joyful about this border. The painter must have been closely associated with Daulat, but the hand does not seem to be that master's.
Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]
1. Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri; or Memoirs of Jahangir. Trans. Alexander Rogers. Ed. Henry Beveridge. 2 vols. London, 1909–1914, II, p. 20.
2. Ibid., II, pp. 107–108.
3· Ibid., II, p. 145.
4· Iibid., II, p. 157
Signature: 18.104.22.168 recto: In Persian in nasta'liq on rock on riverbank: Work of the servant of the palace Nadir al-Asr Mansur the painter.
Inscription: 22.214.171.124 recto: In Persian in nastal'iq on upper rock: Jahangir-shahi.
Marking: 126.96.36.199 recto: Margin number '40' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, no. 147, to Kevorkian); [ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, from 1929]; [ Kevorkian Foundation, New York, until 1955; gift and sale to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, nos. 43 and 44.
Toronto. Aga Khan Museum. "In Search of the Artist," September 1, 2014–November 16, 2014, no catalogue.
Sotheby's: Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1929. no. 147.
Welch, Stuart Cary, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Wheeler M. Thackston. The Emperors' Album: Images of Mughal India. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. nos. 43, 44, pp. 170-172, 174, ill., verso pl. 43 (color); recto pl. 44 (color).
Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 218, ill. fig. 255 (b/w), recto.