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The Execution of Mansur Hallaj, from the Warren Hastings Album

Asian Art

CULTURE Indian
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor on paper
  • Possible Place Made: India
  • DATES 1600-1605
    DYNASTY Mughal
    PERIOD Reign of Akbar
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 15 1/4 x 11 3/16 in. (38.7 x 28.4 cm) Image: 7 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. (18.4 x 11.4 cm)  (show scale)
    INSCRIPTIONS One line of text in cartouche at top of page; (?) on border: Mansur Hallaj
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 69.48.2
    CREDIT LINE A. Augustus Healy Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION Indian. The Execution of Mansur Hallaj, from the Warren Hastings Album, 1600-1605. Opaque watercolor on paper, Sheet: 15 1/4 x 11 3/16 in. (38.7 x 28.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 69.48.2 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 69.48.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 69.48.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION In this fine detached illustration from a manuscript the artist has depicted Mansur al-Hallaj in manacles being led to his death by hanging. Encircling the gallows, his supporters weep and gesticulate, seemingly to no avail. In the background rocks and trees border a lake, and a group of buildings nestles into the hillside on its far shore. While the landscape elements have been rendered in earthy greens and browns, the jamas and sashes of the fourteen figures are painted in an array of reds, blues, saffrons, greens and whites. Warren Hastings (1732-1818) Governor-General of Bengal from 1772 to 1785 was a bibliophile, scholar, educator and one of the outstanding collectors of Indian miniature paintings. (Ehnbom 1985, 11-12) See Also: Ettinghausen 1961, pl. 8; Chester Beatty Library, Ms 61(2), The Burning of the Body of Mansur al-Hallaj, detached from the Nafahat al-Uns of Jami at the British Library, Or. 1362, of 1605. On the basis of style and familiar Akbari elements - for example, the distant townscape and flocks of birds, the tree and gibbet forming compositional anchors - the painting can be dated between 1600 and 1605. However, the identification of the artist and the original context of the miniature remain elusive. The only written information on the album page aside from the line of text is an inscription on the outer border reading "Mansur Hallaj". Hallaj is the late ninth- early tenth-century mystic theologian who is best known for having declared, "I am the Truth," a statement perceived by the religious and political authorities of 'Abbasid Baghdad as highly inflammatory and heretical. Ultimately, after nine years of imprisonment Hallaj was hanged, then decapitated and cremated. Other early Mughal renderings of the death of Hallaj are known. One of these, now in the Walters Art Gallery, depicts the execution of al-Hallaj from a Divan of Amir Hasan Dihlavi (1253-1328) of 1602-03, where the martyr is shown being hoisted up the gallows by two hangmen (see Beach 1981, p. 41, where the Walters' page (W.684B) is identified as a scene from the Akbarnama and ascribed to Miskin). Another depicts the Burning of the Body of Hallaj. In preparing a catalogue of the Indian paintings in the Chester Beatty Library, Robert Skelton and Linda Leach have established that this painting was detached from a manuscript of Jami's Nafahat al-Uns (Breaths of Familiarity), copied by the scribe Ambarin Qalam at Agra in 1605 and now in the British Library. The Brooklyn Museum miniature is close enough in style and size to the paintings of al-Hallaj in Baltimore and Dublin not only to confirm a date of 1600-1605, but also to suggest that it illustrates another version of either Amir Hasan Dihlavi's Divan or Jami's Nafahat al-Uns. The place of production of The Brooklyn Museum's painting remains a question. As this miniature is similar in style, to the Baltimore and Dublin examples, an Allahabad provenance is likely. From catalogue card: Mansur Hallaj, manacled, is being led to his death by hanging. The hangman waits by the gallows while his supporters weep and gesticulate to no avail. In the background, rocks and trees border a lake with buildings on the far shore. The inscription at the top of the outer border reads, "Masur Hallaj" who was an ascetic convicted in the tenth century by the Caliph of Baghdad for declaring himself God. Hallaj was hung, the decapitated and cremated. The Persian inscription in nastaliq script at top of page reads, "As stone on head of those who were coming toward him" (trans. M. Adib)
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