Moralizing fables involving animal characters traversed the Indo-Iranian world for centuries. At times, they were written down and collected into volumes; when made for a wealthy patron, the manuscripts were illustrated. On view are paintings from five animal fables included in the museum’s nearly complete Tuti-nama (Tales of a Parrot) manuscript plus one scene from an Anwar-i Suhaili (Lights of Canopus). The stories include the tale of how a leopard and fox endeavored to devour the children of a sharp-witted woman, the justification for why the creatures of the ocean could not deliver a message from their king, and the adventures of a prince who fed a snake a piece of his own flesh to save the life of a frog.
The paintings were produced in the Mughal manuscript atelier of the young emperor Akbar (reigned 1556–1605), who employed Indian artists working under the direction of Persian masters from Iran. Made from a wide palette of costly mineral pigments and gold, the bright colors and evocative scenes were designed to appeal to the royal patron and serve as a source of courtly entertainment.