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"A King Offers to Make Amends to a Bereaved Mother", Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi

Poet:
Amir Khusrau Dihlavi (1253–1325)
Artist:
Painting attributed to Miskin (active ca. 1570–1604)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Date:
1597–98
Geography:
Attributed to India
Medium:
Main support: Ink, opaque watercolor, gold on paper Margins: Gold on dyed paper
Dimensions:
H. 9 3/4 in. .(24.8 cm) W. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Gift of Alexander Smith Cochran, 1913
Accession Number:
13.228.26
Not on view
In this dramatic painting, a king submits to justice after having accidentally killed a shepherd while hunting. He offers the boy's grieving mother a choice: to take his sword and cut off his head, which will fall in the golden dish between them, or to accept the second dish filled with gold. Some of the marginal figures are of European inspiration, while the rocks are Persian and the main figures are typically Mughal.
Kushraw's thirteenth maqala takes up a constant theme of Islamic courtly literature and exhorts sovereigns to heed their duty to rule with wisdom and unwavering justice. The poet exemplifies this dictum with the tragic story of a king who mistakes a sleeping youth for a bird and slays his innocent victim with an arrow. The wails of the boy's bereaved mother soon reach the king, who discovers the calamity of this inadvertent crime. Placing two golden basins and his sword before the woman, the dismayed king offers the widow her choice of compensation: his head on one salver or a great mound of riches on the other. Mindful of the pointlessness of further bloodshed, the woman accepts the gold and urges the king to continue his just ways.

Miskin places the traditional elements of the story–the king, the slain youth and his grieving mother, the sword and basins–at the center of his scene. Both figures conceal their anguish behind impassive expressions, a reaction emulated by the king's elegant hunting companions on the right. Sprawled over the brushwood fence that encloses the field he once guarded is the youth himself; although his contorted position is surely intended to convey the agony of his death throes, it shares its impression of weightlesness with living figures by Miskin's hand.

Miskin borrows both technique and motif from European prints that circulated throughout the imperial atelier. The richly modeled robes of mother and child are cut from different cloth than the taut jama's of the king's entourage. The wide faces and wavy brown hair of the fallen boy and his three brawling peers betray an obvious debt to European prototypes, as does the crucifix carried by the figure on the right. Likewise, the Mughal fascination with the world beyond takes shape in both the gleaming spires of the miniature town and the ghostly boats plying distant seas.

This emphasis on recession is reinforced by the bright stream and charming animals meandering across the upturned landscape. Miskin habitually includes animals for this reason, but repeats the three frolicking horses in the upper right so often that the motif originally coined by the Persian master Bihzad becomes his own.

John Seyller in [Seyller 2001]
Alexander Smith Cochran, Yonkers, NY (until 1913; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Indian Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 18, 1973–April 1, 1973, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Flowers Underfoot: Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era," November 20, 1997–March 1, 1998, fig. 17.

Baltimore. Walters Art Museum. "Pearls of the Parrot of India: The Khamsa of Amir Khusraw of Delhi (1597/98)," June 9, 2005–September 4, 2005, no. IV.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Pearls of the Parrot of India: The Khamsa of Amir Khusraw of Delhi (1597/98)," October 14, 2005–March 12, 2006, no. IV.

Valentiner, William Reinhold. "The Cochran Collection of Persian Manuscripts." Museum of Metropolitan Art Bulletin, old series, vol. 8 (1913). pp. 80-86.

Dimand, Maurice S. "Mughal Painting under Akbar the Great." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1953). p. 49.

Ettinghausen, Richard. Paintings of the Sultans and Emperors of India in American Collections. Lailat Kala series of Indian art. New Delhi: B. C. Sanyal, 1961. ill. pl. 7.

Khandalavala, Karl, and Moti Chandra, ed. "Journal of Oriental Art Chiefly Indian." Lalit Kala vols. 9-10 (1961). ill. fig. 16.

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Art of Mughal India : Painting and Precious Objects. An Asia House Gallery publication. New York: Asia Society, 1963.

Grube, Ernst J. "The Early School of Herat and its Impact on Islamic Painting of the Later 15th, the 16th and 17th Centuries." In The Classical Style in Islamic Painting. Venice: Edizioni Oriens, 1968. no. 92, ill. pl. 92 (b/w).

Pal, Pratapaditya, ed. Master Artists of the Imperial Mughal Court. Bombay: Marg Publications, 1991. ill. fig. 15.

Walker, Daniel S. Flowers Underfoot: Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. pp. 30-31, ill. fig. 17 (b/w).

Seyller, John. "The Walters Art Museum Khamsa of Amir Khusraw of Delhi." In Pearls of the Parrot of India.. Baltimore, MD: Walters Art Museum, 2001. no. IV, pp. 52-53, ill. fig. 7 (color).

Brend, Barbara. "Illustrations to Amir Khusrau's Khamsa." In Perspectives on Persian Painting. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. pp. 198, 226-38, pp. 48, 264.

Beach, Milo C., Eberhard Fischer, and B.N. Goswamy. Masters of Indian Painting. Vol. Vols. I, II. Zurich, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae Publishers, 2011. vol. I, p. 170.



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