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This item has been added to the Database within the Explore Islamic Art Collections project. Information is available in: English, Arabic.

Name of Object:

Fraser Album Artist: The Bullock-Drawn Carriage of Prince Mirza Babur


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Holding Museum:

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

About Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Object:

c. Hegira 1215-19 / c. AD 1815-19

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Pencil and watercolour, heightened with bodycolour and gold, on paper


30.5 x 41.2cm

Period / Dynasty:





'The special chariot of the son of the spiritual preceptor of the horizons (Murshidzada-i afaq), Mirza Babur Bahadur'. Mirza Babur (b. 1796) was one of the sons of the penultimate Mughal emperor, Akbar II (reg. 1806–37), and the honorific title refers to the Emperor's role as a Sufi spiritual leader. Mirza Babur appears in a group portrait dated 1812 in the British Library, depicting Akbar II with three other sons (see J. P. Losty, M. Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, London 2012, pp. 209-10, fig. 150). 'Zana, bullock-cart driver, Ahir Jadubansi [of the cowherd caste of the Yadava race, descendants of Shri Krishna], inhabitant of Delhi'. The Fraser Album, which emerged from amongst the papers of the family of that name in Scotland in 1979, consists of more than ninety watercolours of high quality, and aside from their technical and aesthetic features provide an extraordinary portrait of life in and around Delhi in the early 19th century, an area which was relatively unknown to the British at that date, with Mughal control ceded to them only in 1803 and the Emperor nominally in power. James Baillie Fraser (1783–1856) and his brother William (1784–1835) came from Inverness. William went to India aged 16 as a trainee political officer in the East India Company; James arrived a year later in a commercial position in Calcutta. While James was a talented artist himself, publishing collections of views of the Himalayas and of Calcutta, when he joined William in Delhi in 1815 the two brothers commissioned local artists to depict servants, tradesmen and figures from the irregular military units, some of which were employed by the British, including Gurkha soldiers and the colourfully-attired troopers of bodies such as Skinner's Horse. More than one artist was employed on the paintings which go to make up the album: some are usually attributed to Ghulam ʽAli Khan, but it is likely that the rest were produced by other members of his family. The works date between 1815 and 1820. The three lots in the present sale capture the richness of ceremonial life in Delhi, and are also representative of the British fascination for types of transport and servants which appears in other more typical examples of Company School painting.

How provenance was established:

- Private collection;
- Christie's, The Ismail Merchant Collection, 7th October 2009, lot 138;
- Sotheby's, Fine Oriental Manuscripts, Miniatures and Qajar Lacquer, London, 7th July 1980, lot 2.

Selected bibliography:

Archer, M., and T. Falk, India Revealed: the Art and Adventures of James and William Fraser 1801-35, London, 1989: 108.

Citation of this web page:

 "Fraser Album Artist: The Bullock-Drawn Carriage of Prince Mirza Babur" in Explore Islamic Art Collections. Museum With No Frontiers, 2023. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;EPM;my;Mus21;40;en

MWNF Working Number: MY1 40


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