Mohammed Racim (24 June 1896 – 30 March 1975) was an Algerian artist who was the founder of the Algerian school of miniature painting that still exists today.
Racim was born into a distinguished family of artists of Turkish descent whose pre-colonial prosperity had been undermined by the French regime’s confiscation of property. Undaunted, Racim’s father established a copper working and woodcarving workshop in the Kasbah of the city. There his brother Omar Racim carried out the engraving of decorative tombstones, which led to the family being commissioned to embellish public buildings during French colonial rule.
Upon discovering miniature paintings created by Persian, Mughal and Andalusian artists for Muslim nobility, Racim embraced this style of painting, adding his own artistic expression, including traditional motifs and calligraphic forms. His ability to artistically recreate an era prior to the arrival of the French colonists made Mohammed Racim a prominent figure in Algerian culture.
A Hindu ascetic, walking with his dog in an idealized landscape, with city buildings visible on the horizon.This work dates to a pivotal moment in the history of Mughal painting: the year when Jahangir replaced his father, Akbar, as emperor and chief patron of the imperial painting atelier. Both father and son were fascinated by Hindu ascetics, and frequently commissioned their artists to paint their portraits. In this unsigned work, an unnamed ascetic garbed in a flowing brown robe is seen striding purposefully through a landscape of gently rolling green hills, accompanied by his dog. Portraiture featuring a single figure shown in profile is a type that emerged under Akbar (r. 1565–1605), but it was under Jahangir (r. 1605–27) that it acquired greater psychological depth.Every element of this naturalistic portrait demonstrates the skill and sensitivity of the Mughal artist, from the careful study of foreground plants to the dignity of the saint-like figure and the silhouettes of trees in the distance. The blue and green hues of the landscape are ultimately derived from Persian painting, but the treatment of light and shadow and the close observation of nature have been learned from European art, brought to the Mughal court by Jesuits, diplomats and traders.
Abu’l Hasan. Jahangir Embracing Shah Abbas. Mughal Dynasty, India. 1618.
During a period of uneasy détente with Shah Abbas, the Safavid king of Iran, Jahangir dreamed the two rulers embraced—but in reality they never met. To proclaim the Mughal emperor’s superiority, the artist Abu’l Hasan cleverly manipulated symbols of sovereignty. The globe, which represents earthly rule and alludes to Jahangir’s name (World Seizer), becomes the stage for his disingenuous bear hug of the smaller, less opulently dressed shah. His lion mount even nudges the shah’s lamb back towards Iran.
The study of an Indian black buck being led by its keeper was painted by the Mughal court artist Manohar, who signed his work on the green ground at top and bottom of the painting. The posture of the keeper who bends one knee, crouching slightly, while looking over his shoulder, is conceivably inspired by the figure of Joseph in Albrecht Durer’s engraving The Flight to Egypt. Engravings by, or after, Durer reached the Mughal court in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, brought mainly by the Jesuits who came from Portuguese Goa, and in several cases were copied directly by the imperial artists. Little is known of Manohar, but contemporary ascriptions to manuscripts attest to his having entered royal service under the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) and he became one of the most important artists of his son and successor, Jahangir (r. 1605-1627). Floral borders were added to his painting late in the reign of Jahangir or early in the reign of Shah Jahan, and the page was preserved in a royal album which became dismembered at some unknown date.
This painting by the Mughal court artists La’l and Kesav Khord depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) hunting for black buck using his trained cheetahs. It is an illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), commissioned by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign.
The Akbarnama was written in Persian by Akbar’s court historian and biographer, Abu’l Fazl, between 1590 and 1596, and the V&A’s partial copy of the manuscript is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1595. This is thought to be the earliest illustrated version of the text, and drew upon the expertise of some of the best royal artists of the time. Many of these are listed by Abu’l Fazl in the third volume of the text, the A’in-i Akbari, and some of these names appear in the V&A illustrations, written in red ink beneath the pictures, showing that this was a royal copy made for Akbar himself. After his death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son Jahangir, from whom it was inherited by Shah Jahan.