A Zebra - ca.1621
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
This depiction of a zebra bears an inscription 'A mule which the Turks in the company of Mir Ja'far had brought from Abyssinia in the year 1030 [1620-21] and the Wonder of the Age, Ustad Mansur, has drawn it'. A floral border frames the image.
The zebra in this painting was presented to the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) by Mir Ja'far who had acquired it from some Turks who had travelled to India from Africa. Jahangir wrote on the painting (in Persian, the court language) that it was: 'A mule which the Turks in the company of Mir Ja'far had brought from Abyssinia in the year 1030 [1620-21], completed by Nader al-Asri [Wonder of the Age], Ustad Mansur"'.
When Jahangir had carefully examined it, and ensured that it was not, as some thought, a horse on which someone had painted stripes, he decided to send it to Shah Abbas of Iran, with whom he often exchanged rare or exotic presents.
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