"Red-Headed Vulture and Long-Billed Vulture", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album, Painting by Mansur (active ca. 1589–1626), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

"Red-Headed Vulture and Long-Billed Vulture", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Painting by Mansur (active ca. 1589–1626)
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
verso: ca. 1615–20; recto: ca. 1535–45
Attributed to India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 15 3/8 in. (39.1 cm)
W. 10 1/16 in. (25.6 cm)_
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 463
The artist Mansur became such a master in painting flora and fauna that he received the title nadir al-'asr, "rare one of the age." Ornithologically accurate, the vultures as revealed by the brush of Mansur are far more than avian specimens. His masterful hand is evident in the subtle gradations of sooty hues and pearly beige and gray shades of the feathers. The sketchy rock suggestive of ground plane and the linear outline of the half-toned rock are not an actual habitat but a plausible setting out of the artist’s imagination. verso–Red-Headed Vulture and Long-Billed Vulture

INSCRIBED (in fine nasta'liq): (on upper rock)
Jahangirshahi; (on lower rock) "work ['amal)
of the servant of the palace Mansur Nadir

IN A FIRE-AND-BRIMSTONE palette of blacks, grays, and turkey-wattle red, Mansur arranged two incongruously elegant scavengers (a red-headed vulture !Aegypius calvus) and a long-billed vulture [Gyps indiens]) for the fullest aesthetic and dramatic effect. While contemplating and sketching, he noted beauty in their ugliness and understood their wise patience. Hungry-eyed, they stare like cats at goldfish, spellbound by something–perhaps enticing carrion–arranged by the artist. A few streaks of white-and-tan rocks for perching, sprigs of foliage, and spare brushstrokes of nim qalam (washes of earth pigments, now slightly darkened by oxidization) provide a convincingly natural stage for the macabre pair.

Although the birds have been transfixed with photographic accuracy, the calligraphic, double-edged contour lines of the rocks and brushed flourishes of foliage display Mansur's accomplishment in the Iranian mode, the mastering of which also sharpened his eye for abstract patterns of feathers and enabled him to silhouette these birds with the sinuous precision of nasta'liq script.[1]

Mansur's career and style are further discussed in the texts for pls. 41, 44, and 47 in this volume.

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE MINIATURE is surrounded by verses from a mathnavi in the mutaqarib meter; they belong to Nizami's Sharafnama-i Iskandari, the first part of his Iskandarnama. There are two related fragments of this epic: one in the lower line in pl. 54 and one on pl. 26 in this volume.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THIS VERSO PAGE has the margin number 39 and so belongs to Group A. It has cutout verses above and below only, an arrangement also found in the painting of the dancing dervishes ( MMA fol. 18r; pl. 52 in this volume). The inner border is formed of a palmette-and-leaf scroll. The outer border contains finely drawn flowering plants in gold on a blue ground. Smaller plants, grass tufts, and butterflies appear around the plants, most of which show a base of grass-covered groundlines or a variety of little leaf forms. The stems–which are outlined in gold on either side with a slightly darker center and thus appear hollow–have many tendrils. There is a certain space around the plants which are carefully placed and drawn with great control. An iris appears at the lower left with a narcissus above it, a small narcissus at the bottom of the lower border, a chrysanthemum-like plant at the lower right corner, and a poppy-like plant above it.

There is a nineteenth-century copy of the red-headed vulture in the Kevorkian Album (MMA fol. 25v; pl. 89 in this volume). That it is an early nineteenth-century copy cannot be doubted when compared to this seventeenth-century painting. There is also a fine Mughal painting of what appears to be a long-billed vulture in the Chester Beatty collection, Dublin, which faces to the right instead of the left.[2] In the Kevorkian Album, there is also an early nineteenth-century copy of what appears to be a longbilled vulture facing right (FGA 49.19a; pl. 82 in this volume). It is very close to the long-billed vulture in this painting and to the one in the Chester Beatty Library, but since several are known one cannot be sure which was the model for the later copyist.

The border schemes of this folio, flowering plants in gold on a blue ground on the portrait side and an abstract scroll, cartouche, palmette, and leaf design on the calligraphy side, prevail also on the folio of the dipper-like bird which has the margin number 40 (MMA fol. 16r; pl. 44 in this volume) and would presumably have faced this page in their original album.

Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]


1. For early portraits by Mansur, in which his calligraphic draughtsmanship is apparent in the thickening and thinning outlines of flowers,
see Welch, Stuart Cary. The Art of Mughal India: Painting and Precious Objects. New York, Asia Society, 1963, no. 18, and Tandan, Raj K. Indian Miniature Painting, 16th Through 19th Centuries. Bangalore, 1982, fig. 15.

2. Arnold, Thomas W, and Wilkinson, J. V. S. The Library of A. Chester Beatty: A Catalogue of the Indian Miniatures. 3 vols. London, 1936, III, pl. 8o. recto–Calligraphy

I'm weeping blood and do not tell you, dear,
That my two eyes are shedding tears for you.
Though union fills my heart with joy, I have
A hundred scars from fear that you may leave.
The poor, the sinner, 'Ali the royal scribe
[al-katib as-sultani]

The page is surrounded by the beginning of the actual story in Jami's famous epic Yusuf and Zulaykha,[1] which follows the introductory religious poems. Another fragment of the same cut-up rnanuscript is on MMA fol. 29v (pl. 25 in this volume).

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE BORDER of this recto leaf contains a long, undulating leaf scroll surrounded by leaves and palmettes with superimposed cartouches in gold on a pink ground. The inner border is similar to that of the verso but in gold on blue.

Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]


1. Jami, 'Abdur-Rahman. Haft Aurang. Ed. Aqa Mustafa and Mudarris Gilani. Teheran, 1958, pp. 591–92.
Signature: verso:
In Persian, in nasta'liq, on lower part of tree stump: Work of the servant of the palace Mansur Nadir al-Asr. recto:
In Persian under main calligraphy: The poor, the sinner, 'Ali the royal scribe.

Inscription: verso:
In Persian, in nasta'liq, on upper part of tree stump: Jahangir-shahi.

Marking: verso:
Margin number '39' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, 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. "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. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, nos. 45 and 46.

Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte islamico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 25.

Swietochowski, Marie, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Islamic Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1978). pp. 40-41, ill. p. 41 (b/w).

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. 45, 46, pp. 173, 175-177, ill., verso pl. 45 (color); recto pl. 46 (b/w).

Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 219, ill. fig. 258 (b/w), verso.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 25, pp. 94-95, ill. p. 95 (b/w).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 160-161, ill. pl. 32 (color).