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Qasam al-Abbas Arrives from Mecca and Crushes Tahmasp with a Mace
Page from a dispersed manuscript of the Hamzanama (Adventures of Hamza)

Attributed to Mahesha, Indian, active c. 1570 - 1590

Made in India, Asia
or made in Pakistan, Asia

Manuscript dated c. 1562-1577

Opaque watercolor and gold- and silver-colored metallic paint on cotton

31 × 25 1/2 inches (78.7 × 64.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift by exchange with the Brooklyn Museum, 1937

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This battle scene comes from a monumental manuscript of the Hamzanama that was produced for the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605). Based on a Persian legend, the Hamzanama was transmitted across the Muslim world, including India. Here the hero Qasam al-Abbas fights the giant villain Tahmasp. Their different mounts suggest their different nationalities: Qasam rides a camel, which together with the white cloth fastened in his helmet and looped around his face, is meant to indicate his Arab origins. (Indeed, the text confirms that he comes from Mecca, the center of Muslim pilgrimage on the Arabian peninsula.) Tahmasp, on the other hand, is a Persian villain and so rides a beautifully caparisoned Persian horse that wears gold armor held together by blue, Persian-style textiles.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Between 1562 and 1577, Emperor Akbar brought scores of painters to his workshop in Delhi to provide illustrations for the Hamzanama (Romance of Amir Hamza). This romantic tale recounts the wild and fantastic adventures of Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. With 1,400 hand-painted illustrations bound in twelve volumes, each about 32 by 25 inches, it was the largest book ever made in India. This remarkable undertaking created a renaissance of Indian painting in a style that melded traditions of both India and Persia. In this dense battle scene, two warriors on contrasting mounts are set off against the foaming curves of fantastic rocks. The tree below establishes the painting's scale; its short trunk seems to bend under the weight of ballooning masses of foliage, which vie with the minute patterns that fill the armor of the falling horse, the saddlecloth of the bulging camel, and the combatants' costumes. The sword of the Persian king Tahmasp, raised high but in vain, is a dominant accent, one of several intersecting diagonals that organize this vigorous painting. Stella Kramrisch, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 54.