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A Sub-Imperial Manuscript?

Akbarnama painting
Akbar's Expedition by Boat to the Eastern Provinces
Page from a dispersed manuscript of the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar)
Northern India, Mughal court
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
The Samuel S. White 3rd and Vera White Collection, 1967-30-398

Until fairly recently it was assumed that this 1598–99 Razmnama had been commissioned by a Mughal prince or another member of Emperor Akbar's courtly administration rather than by the emperor, himself. This assumption rested primarily on the notion that the paintings in the manuscript were of lesser quality than those known to have been created for Akbar. Certainly the compositions in this Razmnama are simpler and less pigment-rich than those in the deluxe manuscripts done for the emperor, such as the imperial Akbarnama ("Book of Akbar"). However, the paintings from this manuscript are actually extremely accomplished. For example, many display a wash technique where the thinness of the paint made it almost impossible for the artist to make changes or corrections once the design had been laid out. In addition, the artists of the 1598–99 Razmnama displayed their skill and originality by inventing many new compositions, even for scenes that had already been depicted in the Razmnama made for Akbar in 1584–86.

Furthermore, many of the names of the individual artists written on the illustrated pages of the 1598–99 Razmnama match those of painters known to have worked on manuscripts illustrated in the imperial painting workshop. This suggests that not only was this Razmnama produced in the imperial workshop and thus under the emperor's direct patronage, but also that it received the attention of some of the premier artists. Perhaps the 1598–99 Razmnama was intended as a gift for a prince or a courtier and as such did not warrant the kind of time and resources lavished on paintings made for the emperor himself.