Noah’s Ark


Noah’s Ark. Possibly from the Diwan of Hafiz.

Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Akbar, ca. 1590
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W: 28.1 x 15.6 cm (11 1/16 x 6 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Provenance information is currently unavailable

Noah's Ark. Possibly from the Diwan of Hafiz.


1. Bought from Mrs. Antoinette P. Minassian, New York. For price, see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List after 1920.

2. (R.E., 1948). Although Noah (Arabic Nuh) is a popular figure in the Koran and Muslim legend, representations of him and the ark filled with animals are not too frequent (for a Persian 16th century example see T.W. Arnold, The Old and New Testaments in Muslim Religious Art, Pl. VII). Unlike the Persian example just cited, the Indian miniature shows a great number of animals. Following the Muslim legend it shows the quadrupeds in the lower stories, in the next the human beings, and the birds on the top (see B. Heller in Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. III, p. 948b). The large number of persons in the ark does not have to surprise us, since in the legend their number varies between seven and eighty. They include a master mariner using an astrolabe and some nautical book, sailors, a woman, and finally Nuh and his sons. Among the animals, which are always given in pairs, are also fantastic ones which came to the Muslim world from China, such as the feng-huang = simurgh amongst the birds, a feline animal with flames above the legs and a unicorn among the quadrupeds. The rescue of a man fallen overboard is not unusual secondary motif in Persian and Indian nautical scenes.
Exhibited: Loan Exhibition of Islamic Art, Cleveland,1 1944.

3. (Milo C. Beach, 1981, from the exhibition label: "The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court"): "A verse from the Koran is devoted to Noah, and he figures in such poetical texts as the Diwan of Hafiz, from which this illustration may have come.
"Miskin--one of the greatest of Akbar's painters--was the son of Mahesh (F1945.27). Minor details in his early works reflect his debt to Mahesh, e.g., the mountain forms. Miskin was recognized as a major painter of animals and was given appropriate commissions as early as the Ramayana."

4. (MCB, 1985, from an exhibition label: "The Arts of South Asia.") References to Noah are frequent in Muslim poetical texts. In the Diwan of the 14th century poet Hafiz, for instance, Noah is cited as an example of both strength and holiness:
To men of God be friendly: in Noah's ark was earth (i.e. Noah)
which deemed not all the deluge
One drop of water worth

(Translated by H. Bicknell)

5. (Vrinda Agrawal for Debra Diamond, July 2011)

Miskin – Also referred to as Miskina. Born 1560. Active late 1570s-c.1604. Worked at the atelier of Emperor Akbar in Fatehpur Sikri, Lahore and Agra. Son of Mahesh, brother of ‘Asi.
Miskin is a pen name meaning “the humble one” or “the wretched” (Brand, p167)
Related works are in British Library, London; Harvard Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, MA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Aga Khan Museum Collection; Walter Art Museum, Baltimore; Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

[Michael, Brand "Miskin." Masters of Indian Paintings. Vol I Eds. Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B. N. Goswamy. Zurich: Artibus Asiae, 2011.]

6. (Vrinda Agrawal for Debra Diamond, August 2011)

From Milo Beach's 'Imperial Image', 2011 [cat. 17 ,pp.98-9]:

Verily above all human beings did God choose Adam, and Noah, and the family of Abraham.
The prophet Noah (Nuh in Arabic) figures prominently in the Koran, as well as in such
poetic texts as the Diwan of Hafiz and the Qasis al-Anbiya. This illustration, in addition
to a well-known scene of King Solomon’s Court, may both come from an otherwise
lost volume of Hafiz.
The composition here, without the amusing and sympathetic depictions of animals
at which Miskin excelled, was adapted by the artist for use in an Anwar-i-Suhaili in the
Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi. The majority of Mughal artists often made use of (and
modified) established compositions rather than inventing new visual solutions.

For further information about Miskin, see pp. 211–12. See also nos. 7, 8e, 44, and 45.

7. (Najiba Choudhury for Debra Diamond, 1/20/12) Medium changed from "color and gold on paper" to "opaque watercolor and gold on paper" in accordance with Milo Beach's Imperial Image 2012 [cat. 17, p.98]

8. (M. Foo on behalf of D. Diamond, 7/1/15) For a similar crocodile (it looks like a sea monster but it is described as a crocodile in Babur’s memoirs) and boat, see the Baburnama folio in the British Library that is ascribed to Kham, ca. 1590; J.P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire; Manuscripts and Paintings in the British Library. London: The British Library, 2012 , fig. 11, p. 44 and described in Baburnama 2002, p. 444.

For another vertical marine composition with a man overboard, see “Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat and Rumi Khan jumping into the sea at Diu in 1537,” ascribed to Lal, 1602-3, in J.P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire; Manuscripts and Paintings in the British Library. London: The British Library, 2012, fig. 25, p. 62.

An illustrated manuscript of the Diwan (collected poems) of Hafiz that was in the library of Salim/Jahangir in Allahabad between 1600-1604 contains a small painting of Noah’s ark, which illustrates a reference to Noah’s ark by the poet. [JPL2012], Grenville XLI, f. 112v, fig. 43, p. 88. (J.P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire; Manuscripts and Paintings in the British Library. London: The British Library, 2012, includes a reference to our painting on p. 88, which he calls “more elaborate”).

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