"Tumanba Khan, His Wife, and His Nine Sons", Folio from a Chingiznama (Book of Genghis Khan), Basawan (Indian, active ca. 1556–1600), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

"Tumanba Khan, His Wife, and His Nine Sons", Folio from a Chingiznama (Book of Genghis Khan)

Basawan (Indian, active ca. 1556–1600)
Bhim Gujarati (active 1590s)
Object Name:
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
ca. 1596
Made in present-day Pakistan, probably Lahore
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Page: 15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Francis M. Weld Gift, 1948
Accession Number:
Not on view
The text of the Chingiznama records the life of the legendary conqueror Chingiz Khan (Genghis Khan) and his family. The emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) commissioned many historical manuscripts in the 1590s, but because the Mughals claimed descent from Genghis Khan, this book must have had particular resonance for him. This illustration depicts the ruler Tumanba Khan, an ancestor of Genghis Khan, with his wife and nine sons.
This late sixteenth-century Mughal painting comes from a copy of the Chingiznama1 (Book of Genghis Khan ; also known as the Genghisnama), the text of which is an extract from Rashid al-Din’s fourteenth-century Jami‘ al-tawarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) that describes the life of Genghis Khan and his descendants. The Chingiznama was one of a group of historical manuscripts that the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) commissioned in the 1590s with the intention of situating his dynasty in the course of world history.
This particular illustration depicts the ruler Tumanba Khan and his wife enthroned in the courtyard of a palace.[2] As an ancestor of both Genghis Khan (through his sixth son, Qabal Khan) and Timur (through his third son, Qajuli), Tumanba Khan was also an illustrious forebear of the Mughals. He is shown in an anachronistic Mughal-inspired palace with his nine sons (five from one wife, four from another),[3] but the adjacent text does not mention why they were gathered together. The artists appear to have taken the liberty of composing a scene of their own imagination to accompany the text, which simply lists each of the nine sons and their descendants. Perhaps some deeper meaning is intended by the woman at the right who points at one of the sons, or the woman at the left who holds a glass model of a building, but the significance of these details is unclear.
An inscription in red ink at the bottom ascribes the painting to two of the most accomplished early Mughal painters. Basawan was a master portraitist of Akbar’s time; here he has carefully shown the descending age of the nine sons, from fully bearded to mustachioed to bare-cheeked. Bhim Gujarati, who is also known from other Akbar-period works (which he usually signed ‘amal), completed approximately four of the sixteen folios Basawan designed in the Chingiznama.[4]
Marika Sardar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. This folio comes from a copy of the Chingiznama in the Gulistan Library, Tehran. The manuscript once had a colophon (now apparently missing) stating that the calligraphy was completed on A.H. 27 Ramadan 1004/ May 25, 1596 A.D. See Marek, J[iri], and H[ana] Knizkova. The Jenghiz Khan Miniatures from the Court of Akbar the Great. London, 1963, p. 29. There are 304 folios with 98 paintings remaining in Tehran, but several additional pages are known in outside collections, as identified in The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exhibition, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Catalogue by Milo Cleveland Beach. Washington, D.C., 1981, pp. 101–2.
2. The subject of this painting had previously been identified as "Genghis Khan Dividing His Empire among His Sons." Philippa Vaughan first suggested the identification supported here in 1994 (letter, curatorial file, Department of Islamic Art), although the painting continued to be published with the earlier title.
3. Abu’l Fazl’s Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) includes an account of these Mughal ancestors but, in contradiction to the text here, states that seven of Tumanba Khan’s sons were from one wife and that Qajuli and Qabal were twins, born to a second wife.
4. See Verma, Som Prakash. Mughal Painters and Their Work: A Biographical Survey and Comprehensive Catalogue. Delhi, 1994, pp. 100–101, and Milo Cleveland Beach 1981, p. 224. (see note 1 above)
Inscription: Signature in Persian in nasta‘liq script on border at lower right:
طرح و چهره بساون عمل بهيم گجراتى
Sketch and faces Basawan, work Bhim Gujarati

Marking: Trans.: Sketch and faces by Basawan. Work of Bhim Gujarati.
[ Heeramaneck Galleries, New York, until 1948; sold to MMA]
New York. Visual Arts Gallery. "An Exhibition of Indian Miniatures," April 5, 1972–April 27, 1972, no catalogue.

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. Asia Society. "Akbar's India: Art from the Mughal City of Victory," October 10, 1985–January 5, 1986, no. 35.

Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). p. 42 (color).

Swietochowski, Marie, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Islamic Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1978). pp. 42-43, ill. p. 42 (color).

Brand, Michael. "Art from the Mughal City of Victory." In Akbar's India. New York: Asia Society, 1985. no. 35, pp. 74-75, 145, ill. p. 75 (color).

Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 21, ill. fig. 18, folio 73v color illustration.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 246, pp. 351-352, ill. p. 352 (color).