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Portrait of an African Official

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Ahmadnagar, Maharashtra, Deccan Region, India, Asia

c. 1610-1620

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Image: 5 5/8 × 3 1/16 inches (14.3 × 7.8 cm) Sheet: 9 7/8 × 6 3/8 inches (25.1 × 16.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Dr. Alvin O. Bellak, 1998

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Longstanding and extensive commerce, controlled primarily by rulers on the Deccan plateau, took place between India and Africa's east coast. This portrait of a dark-skinned man in formal court attire may be Malik Ambar, a famous African slave turned powerful Deccani warrior and statesman. Although the Mughals captured the capital of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in 1600, Malik Ambar soon won back all of its territories, and by 1620 he was powerful enough to threaten the Mughals deep inside their vast empire. The peculiar way of looping the sash over the waist-hung purse or penbox is characteristic of Ahmadnagar portraits. The outer border is not original, and the name written on it in nagari script is otherwise unknown.

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