"Three Trees of India", Folio from a Baburnama (Autobiography of Babur)

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 463

The Baburnama, one of the most important texts of the Mughal period, provides insight into the literary, intellectual, and cultural world of Babur (1483–1530), founder of the Mughal empire. The Baburnama is especially celebrated for its observations of India's natural world, an aspect of the text most pleasingly captured in the subject matter here. The page depicts three trees: one on the recto (jackfruit) and two on the verso (monkey jack and lote). Interspersed among the images are texts in nasta'liq Persian script describing the trees and their fruits. During the reign of Babur's grandson Akbar (1556–1605), four imperial copies of the Baburnama were created, each illustrated by leading artists of the royal atelier. This folio comes from the earliest of these copies, the 1589 manuscript, which was likely a model for the later versions. It is thought originally to have contained 191 illustrations, many of which were dispersed in 1913, with a substantial portion remaining in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The collaboration between two or more artists, as seen here, was typical of early Mughal workshop practice.

"Three Trees of India", Folio from a Baburnama (Autobiography of Babur), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

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