A Chained Elephant

Elephants were both the favorite animals of Emperor Akbar and a popular subject for his painters. This elephant energetically bounds forward while turning his trunk back to spray his rider with water from a nearby pool. His stippled hide, and the way that the rider secures himself on the surging beast’s back by tucking his foot beneath a strap, reveal the naturalism that Akbar’s most avant-garde artists sought in the 1590s. Some years later Jahangir had some of the best paintings in the collection of his father, Emperor Akbar, bound within the Gulshan Album. Jahangir’s refined taste is evident in the border’s golden landscapes enlivened by brightly colored pairs of birds.

A Chained Elephant
From the Gulshan Album
Attributed to Farrukh Chela
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1590
Borders, ca. 1600
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Freer Gallery of Art F1956.12