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Lal

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Lal

(fl. c. 1570s–c.1604).

Indian miniature painter. Probably a Muslim (Arab. la῾l, “ruby”; Hindi lal, “red” or a term of endearment), he was a prolific master to whom over 110 works are attributed. He was highly influential in forming the studio style under the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605; see Mughal, §II, C) and was listed sixth of the 17 painters in order of seniority in the Āyin-i Akbarī, a contemporary account of Akbar's administration as it was c.1590. Lal would have worked on the Hamzanāma (“Tales of Hamza”; c.1567–82, alternatively dated 1562–77) since, by 1582, together with Daswanth, he was the senior designer of the studio, contributing 38 folios in the Razmnāma (“Book of wars”; 1582–6; Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Mus., MS. AG. 1683–1850). Such brilliant compositions as Rama and the Allies Crossing to Lanka (fol. 31) and landscapes (fols. 51 and 108) show a strong Persian orientation. For architectural settings (fol. 104) and portrait typology (fol. 51) he incorporated European conventions as interpreted by Kesu das. However, notwithstanding the use of European conventions such as the silhouette of a distant city to allude to space, he was essentially unsympathetic to European principles of perspective. Thus he designed well-balanced compositions in the Timurnāma (“History of Timur”; 1584; Bankipur, Patna, Khuda Bakhsh Lib.; fols. 22v, 23r, 44v, 60v, 63v, 65v, 66v, 87r) and the Jami῾ al-tawārīkh (“History of the world”; 1596; Tehran, Gulistan Pal. Lib.; 19 folios). Yet texts illustrating the material culture of medieval Central Asia and inspired by Persian prototypes, many in the Akbarnāma (“History of Akbar”; c.1590; London, V&A, IS.2:1896; fols. 8, 9, 43, 44 and 54/117), which demanded new compositions set in contemporary palaces, lack understanding of architectural form. His only two folios in the Bāburnāma (“History of Babur”; c.1590; London, V&A, I.M.265.1913; fols. 212r, 481v) confirm a reluctance to draw observed phenomena. This empathy with Timurid and later Safavid perceptions of composition and painting is evident in folios of the Akbarnāma (London, V&A, IS.2:1896; fols. 27, 28, 32, 39, 41, 76, 93, 101, 102, 106, 108 and 109/117; see Illustration, fig. 25). It is also evident in literary manuscripts: Nizami's Khamsa (“Five poems”; c.1585; Pontresina, Keir Col.; fols. 60v, 119r, 276v, 245r, 267r and 286v), full compositions in Jami's Bahāristān (“Spring garden”; 1595; Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Elliot 254; fol. 17v), Nizami's Khamsa (1595; London, BL, Or. 12208; fols. 15v and 317v), Sa῾di's Gulistān (“Rose garden”; c.1595; Cincinnati, OH, A. Mus., 1951.300) and the Khamsa of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (1597–8; Baltimore, MD, Walters A. Mus., W. 613, fols. 35r and 100v; New York, Met., 13.228.27). Although Lal worked concurrently within established formulae on the later Akbarnāma (begun c.1596–7, alternatively dated 1602–5; i, London, BL, Or. 12988, fols. 53r, 63v, 66v, 68v; ii, Dublin, Chester Beatty Lib., Ind. MS., fols. 6v–7r, 27v, 59v–60r, 72, 78v–79r, 142v), his versions of Sultan Bahadur Jumping into the Sea when Surrounded by Portuguese Boats (Or. 12988; fol. 66r) is original and dramatic. His talent and artistic inclinations were, however, more suited to literary texts: Dara and the Herdsman, attributable to Lal, in the Kulliyyāt (“Complete works”) of Sa῾di (c.1603–4; Geneva, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan priv. col.), is perhaps his finest mature work.

Bibliography

  • T. H. Hendley: Memoirs of the Jeypore Exhibition, 1883, iv (Jaipur, 1884)
  • B. W. Robinson, ed.: Islamic Painting and the Arts of the Book: The Keir Collection (London, 1976)
  • The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court (exh. cat. by M. C. Beach; Washington, DC, Freer, 1981)
  • Arts of the Islamic Book: The Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (exh. cat. by A. Welch and S. C. Welch; New York, Asia Soc. Gals., 1982)
  • M. C. Beach: Early Mughal Painting (Cambridge, MA, 1987)
  • B. Brend: “Akbar's Khamsah of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi— A Reconstruction of the Cycle of Illustrations,” Artibus Asiae, xlix/3–4 (1988–9), pp. 281–315
  • L. Y. Leach: Mughal and other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library (Dublin, 1995)
  • S. P. Verma: “La῾l: The Forgotten Master,” Marg, xlviii/4 (1998)
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