Umar Arrives before the Castle of Antali

Akbar assumed the Mughal throne at the age of thirteen. His first great commission as emperor was an illustrated version of the Hamzanama, a Persian adventure story. Akbar so enjoyed its tales of kidnappings, magical journeys, and daring escapes that he related them like a storyteller to the women of the court.

Here, a larger-than-life hero named Umar rides towards a castle where several of his friends have been imprisoned by evil magicians. He gestures towards the gate through which he will sneak to release his abducted companions. The stronghold buzzes with activity, from men carrying bundles of laundry on their heads to sorcerers wielding snakes. This overall emphasis on dynamic action is a characteristic of painting during the early years of Akbar’s reign in the 1560s and 1570s.

Umar Arrives before the Castle of Antali From a Hamzanama (Story of Hamza)
Attributed to Mahesh and Shravana
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1570
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on cotton cloth Purchase
Freer Gallery of Art F1960.15