"Black Buck", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album, Painting attributed to Manohar (active ca. 1582–1624), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

"Black Buck", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Painting attributed to Manohar (active ca. 1582–1624)
Object Name:
Album leaf
recto: ca. 1615–20; verso: ca. 1530–50
Attributed to India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 15 3/8 in. (39 cm)
W. 10 1/4 in. (26 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 squarish format of this painting of a black buck, attributed to the artist Manohar, required filling the extra space within the "window" of the border, adroitly accomplished with two leaves of poetry, possibly taken from a type of narrow oblong manuscript known as a safina. The lower page, signed by the Persian master Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi in the triangular box at the right, contains verse by the great poet Jami. Manohar painted several versions of this subject for the emperor, who mentions his fondness for his favorite decoy black buck in his memoirs. verso–Calligraphy

THE CENTRAL text, taken from a religious mathnavi in the mutaqarib meter, perhaps Sa'di's Bustan, begins:

To the wise man who solves difficulties [it is evident]:
You are a guest, the world is a guesthouse ...and ends:

Even though a person is famous by a hundred names,
The "seeker of good" is better than all of them.

The poem is surrounded by the end of a ghazal by Hafiz[1] and the beginning of another ghazal by him;[2] the calligraphy may well be that of Sultan-'Ali Mashhadi.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE CALLIGRAPHY is surrounded by both cutout poetry and an inner border of gold palmette scrolls on a blue ground. The birds in the branches between the cutout poetry have not been identified. The outer border contains plants in gold on a pink ground. This is the only folio in Group A with the border scheme of flowering plants in colors on a buff ground on the portrait side and gold plants on a pink ground on the calligraphy side. It would seem that this is the only leaf inserted here from the album to which it originally belonged.

This border may be assigned to one of the more prolific border artists, who also appears to have painted the borders of MMA fols. 6v, 19v, 23r, and 29v (pls. 73, 11, 16, and 25 in this volume).

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


1. Hafiz, Muhammad Shamsuddin. Divan-i Hafiz. Ed. Nadhir Ahmad and S. M. Jalali Na'ini. Teheran, 1971, ed. Brockhaus, no. 115; ed. Ahmad-Na'ini, no. 97

2. Ibid., ed. Brockhaus, no. 120; ed. Ahmad-Na'ini, no. 101. recto–Black Buck

TAUTLY modeled and glowingly sleek, with deftly modulated white, black, and tan coat, this black buck stands apart from Mansur's and Abu'l-Hasan's animal studies as a calculated "work of art" rather than a knowing portrayal of a specific creature. The buck's stylized mask with its crisply rounded eye and firmly set rnouth brings to mind the patterned abstraction of Achaemenid relief sculpture. Despite this glyptic precision, forms are not sharply observed. Beneath the fur, the skull and jaw seem vague and soft, and the nostrils are ill-defined. Horns spring illogically from nowhere into amorphous, textureless stubs.

A more finished but strikingly similar miniature in the Victoria and Albert Museum showing a groom leading a black buck was probably painted by the same hand. Convincingly inscribed as the work of Manohar, it is also identical in the handling of tufts of grass.[1] Two further studies of bucks attributable to Manohar are in the Muraqqa-'i Gulshan in the Gulistan Library, Teheran.[2]

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE UPPER part is a page from a safina with the end of a poem by Amir Khusrau and the beginning of one of his rnost famous poems:[3]

My heart became wayward in love–may it be even more
My body became helpless from weakness [lit., "having no
heart"]–may it be even more helpless!

The lower part is a page from another safina with the last line of a ghazal by Jarni and a complete ghazal by the same poet,[4] calligraphed by Sultan-'Ali Mashhadi, probably during the author's lifetime.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE RECTO PORTRAIT has the margin number 26. Cutout verses are set diagonally above and below with a narrow chain-link border around the lower ones, the usual floral-scroll inner border is omitted. The outer border has flowering plants in colors on a buff ground. A tulip is placed in the lower right corner and in the right margin, with perhaps a peach in the left margin and possibly a rose in the upper right corner.

One of the animals Jahangir rnost liked hunting was the black buck. He kept decoy bucks to lure wild ones and tells a story of an enraged wild one attacking his decoy among a crowd of onlookers.[5] Elsewhere the emperor mentions hunting antelope with cheetahs.[6] In Jahangirpur, one of the emperor's fixed hunting places, he had ordered a stone sculpture in the form of an antelope as a gravestone for his favorite decoy black buck "which was without equal in fights with tame antelopes and in hunting wild ones." Jahangir ordered that, because of the rare quality of that beast, no one should hunt the deer in the area or eat its flesh.[7]

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


1. See Clarke, C. Stanley. Indian Drawings: Thirty Mogul Paintings of the School of Jahangir (17th Century) and Four Panels of Calligraphy in the Wantage Bequest. Victoria and Albert Museum Portfolios. London, 1922, pl. 8.

2. See also the painting of a buck, believed to be by Manohar, in the British Museum, published in Havell, E. B. Indian Sculpture and Painting. 2d ed. London, 1928, pl. 62.

3· Amir Khusrau Dihlawi. Divan-i kamil. Ed. Mahmud Darvish. Teheran, 1965, nos. 59 and 75.

4. Jami, 'Abdur-Rahrnan. Divan-i kamil. Ed. Hashim Riza. Teheran, 1962, nos. 16 and 209.

5. Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri; or Memoirs of Jahangir. Trans. Alexander Rogers. Ed. Henry Beveridge. 2 vols. London, 1909–1914, II, p. 43.

6. Ibid., II, p. 109.

7· Ibid., I, p. 91.
Signature: verso:
In Persian, in center margin: Written by Mir 'Ali the scribe.

Marking: 55.121.17 recto:
Margin number '26' 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. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, no. 50.

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. 50, pp. 184-185, ill. pl. 50 (color).

Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 140, ill. fig. 158 (b/w), recto.