, The emperor Akbar seated on an elephant Enlarge 1 /1
Deccan painting, possibly Machilipatnam style The emperor Akbar seated on an elephant c. 1780 Place made: Andhra Pradesh, India
Materials & Technique: paintings, miniatures, opaque watercolour and gold leaf Support: paper
Primary Insc: Inscribed above image upper centre, in pencil, in Telugu.
Tertiary Insc: Inscribed lower right edge edge below image, in black ink 'G-AP.260'
Dimensions: border 20.6 h x 27.0 w cm image 15.4 h x 21.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: The Gayer-Anderson Gift 1954
Accession No: NGA 91.1419
Subject: Royalty Portrait: male Animals: elephants
  • Acquired by Henry Russell, 2nd Baronet, while stationed in Hyderabad, Telangana, India, between 1800 and 1820
  • probably exported from India by Henry Russell, 1820
  • probably held in the collection of Sir Henry Russell, 2nd Baronet, of Swallowfield Park, Reading, Berkshire, England, 1820-1852
  • after the death of Sir Henry Russell in 1852 the collection may have passed by descent through various successive generations of the Russell family, but it was dispersed by sale at some point between 1852 and 1952
  • with Walker Galleries, London, England, 1952 or before
  • who sold it to Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson, 1952
  • held in the collection of Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson and the late Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, both of Little Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk, England, 1952-1953
  • who gave it to the Commonwealth of Australia, 1953
  • held by National Library of Australia, Canberra, after transfer from London, 1954-1991
  • transferred to the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1991.
  • The collecting history of this painting is unconfirmed between its creation and the earliest confirmed transaction, its purchase in Hyderabad between 1800 and 1820. A further break in the known provenance exists between the death of Sir Henry Russell in 1852 and the appearance of the painting at Walker’s Galleries, London in 1952. The National Gallery of Australia welcomes further information regarding its history of ownership in either of these periods.

Mughal armies kept elephants for use in battle—as many as 40,000 during the reign of Akbar (1542–1605, ruled 1556–1605). The emperor was renowned for his fearlessness in riding and taming aggressive male elephants on heat [mast]. Here a mast elephant has broken its chain and seized an attendant. Akbar was committed to the arts and fostered the development of an influential Mughal school of painting inspired by traditional Indian and Persian styles as well as European realism.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label