The magician, disguised as a Brahman, visits the king of Babylon, from a Tuti-nama (Tales of a Parrot): Thirty-fifth Night

The magician, disguised as a Brahman, visits the king of Babylon, from a Tuti-nama (Tales of a Parrot): Thirty-fifth Night

c. 1560

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Mughal India, court of Akbar

(reigned 1556–1605)

Gum tempera, ink, and gold on paper

Overall: 20.3 x 14 cm (8 x 5 1/2 in.); Painting only: 12.5 x 10.1 cm (4 15/16 x 4 in.)

Gift of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1962.279.232.b

Location

Did you know?

The transformed Brahman, who is in the form of the woman, carries a magical bead in his mouth.

Description

The king of Babylon, seated on a throne, receives the Brahman in the form of a woman and the magician in the form of a Brahman. The king agrees to keep the woman (the transformed Brahman) temporarily in his harem as a favor to the Brahman (the disguised magician).

Scholars have identified this image as a portrait of Akbar, the third Mughal emperor of India, and the commissioner of this manuscript. He is thought to be identifying himself as the king of Babylon, regarded in the Islamic world as an ancient center of power and culture. In this story, however, the king fell victim to the trickery of his own daughter, her lover, and the magician, making one wonder why Akbar would choose to portray himself in this guise. The identification of this image as a portrait of Akbar remains unresolved.

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