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Title:"Asvatthama Fires the Narayana Weapon (Cosmic Fire) at the Pandavas", Folio from a Razmnama
Patron:'Abd al-Rahim ibn Muhammad Bairam Khan Khan-i Khanan (Indian, Delhi 1556–1627 Agra)
Geography:Attributed to India
Medium:Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:Page: H. 15 1/16 in. (38.2 cm) W. 9 7/16 in. (24 cm) Painting: H. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm) W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1955
Arjuna and the Other Pandavas at the Edge of the Fire
Part of Akbar's success in creating a stable empire in India was his curiosity about and sympathetic understanding of cultures outside his own. In pursuing his program to increase Muslim understanding of Hindu traditions, he had translations made of the great Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata concerns the rivalry between two related families, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and the final great battle between them that gives the epic its name, "the great [war of] Bharata" or, in the Persian translation, Razmnama, or "Epic of War."
The particular manuscript to which this painting belonged was, however, not commissioned by the imperial court, but by a great commander, poet, and scholar in the service of Akbar, 'Abd al-Rahim ibn Muhammad Bairam, known as the Khan-e Khanan. A miniature from the same manuscript bears the date A.H. 1025, the equivalent of A.D. 1616. Fazl seems to have been one of the leading painters of this bibliophile's atelier. The Khan-e Khanan remained loyal to the traditions of Akbar at a time when the imperial taste was no longer so attuned to Hindu epics, and the style of this painting is also somewhat archaistic. The figural arrangement is reminiscent of Persian prototypes, and the towering hills are still somewhat two-dimensional, without the vast vistas in painings of the court workshops. However, the faces, costumes and accoutrements, coloring, and landscape details are all characteristically Mughal. and the dramatic diagonal of the band of fire reflects, if palely, the dynamic compositions of Akbari paintings.
Marie Lukens Swietochowski in [Berlin 1981]
Signature: Signed below painting, in margin: Fadl (?)
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (until 1929; his sale, Sotheby's, London, December 12, 1929, nos. 702, 704, 705, 707, 1537); [ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, by 1953]; [ Kevorkian Foundation, New York, until 1955; sold to MMA]
Berlin. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 124.
Robinson, Basil William. The Kevorkian Collection: Islamic and Indian Illustrated Manuscripts, Miniature Paintings and Drawings. New York, 1953. no. CCCLXXIV, p. 145.
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 124, pp. 292–93, p. 293 (b/w).
Seyller, John. "The Freer Ramayana and Other Illustrated Manuscripts of 'Abd al-Rahim." In Workshop and Patron in Mughal India. Zurich, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae Publishers, 1999. p. 254, ill. fig. 165 (b/w).
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