"Study of a Nilgai (Blue Bull)", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Artist: Painting by Mansur (active ca. 1589–1626)

Calligrapher: Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)

Object Name: Album leaf

Date: verso: ca. 1620; recto ca. 1540

Geography: Attributed to India

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Dimensions: H. 15 5/16 in. (38.9 cm)
W. 10 1/16 in. (25.6 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955

Accession Number:


The nilgai, though known as a blue bull, is a type of antelope found in central and northern India and eastern Pakistan. This study was painted by Mansur, probably after observing the animal in Jahangir’s (r. 1605–27) zoological garden. While great detail is lavished on the depiction of the animal, down to the distinctive swirl of hair where his neck meets his body, the background makes no reference to the nilgai’s natural habitat. As in portraits of people, a neutral or harmonious setting prevailed in Mughal animal paintings.