This painting by an anonymous artist depicts a princely figure riding through mountainous terrain as a guide runs before him. Mounted as an album page, this work has no narrative context, though it resembles some Mughal manuscript illustrations from the late sixteenth and early 17th century. Its composition is entirely in keeping with the style of late Akbari painting. As one finds in numerous outdoor scenes of this period, the rocky outcrops of the mountain rise to the right, while in the left background we see a pale cityscape. The figures and horse inhabit the foreground, but the bucking horse and running guide suggest that they have been caught for only a moment and will soon be advancing out of this particular landscape.
Princely figures on horseback have a long history in Islamic art, from Abbesid ceramics of the 9th century and 10th-century wall paintings at Nishapur to their appearance in Persian and Mughal manuscript and album painting. The guide, or runner, however, begins to appear in Persian painting and metalwork in the early 16th century and is a common sight in Akbar-period painting. Known as payk, the runner was an established employee of the royal stable. Payks in Iran and India wore tall felt hats and short tunics and carried axes, called tabar. Presumably they used the axes to clear the way for their masters.
Sheila Canby in [Calza 2012]
Marking: In upper border, in black ink: [ ]
On back, at top, in blue ballpoint: Page 762 # [ ] Album Mughal
On back, in pencil below: 45
In bottom right (circular sticker) in pencil: 332
Hagop Kevorkian, New York (until d. 1962; his estate sale, Sotheby's, London,December 6, 1967, no. 119, to MMA)
Rome. Museo Fondazione Roma. "Akbar: The Great Emperor of India," October 22, 2012–February 3, 2013, no. I.9.
"The Property of the Kevorkian Foundation, December 6, 1967." In Highly Important Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1967. no. 119, p. 41, ill. opp. p. 41 (b/w).
Grube, Ernst J. "Reports of the Departments: Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 27, no. 2 (1968). pp. 103-106, ill. p. 104 (b/w).
Calza, Gian Carlo. "The Great Emperor of India." In Akbar. Milan: Skira, 2012. no. 1.9, pp. 98, 236, ill. p. 98 (color).