The subject of this miniature is Timur, depicted at the time of his campaigns against the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid at the beginning of the 15th century. Here he bestows honours upon Taharten, the Prince of Arzinjan in Armenia.
The inscription underneath this miniature states that it is the "Work of Tulsi, [with] principle portraits by Mahdu". Both Tulsi and Mahdu were senior artists in the royal atelier under Akbar. Tulsi is recorded by Verma as an orthodox but skilled painter (S.P. Verma, Mughal Painters and their Work, New Delhi, 1994). Mahdu is described by the Mughal chronicler Abu'l Fazl as "one of the leading painters of Akbar's court" (Verma, op.cit., p.234). Of the 38 of Madhu's works that Verma lists, fifteen of them are portraits. Another folio from the same Zafarnama, also with faces and corrections done by Mahdu is in the Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection (published John Seyller and Konrad Seitz, Mughal and Deccani Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Zurich, 2010, no.6, pp.42-44). There Seyller describes a typical Mahdu face as having "small, dark eyes, fuzzy moustaches and bears and alert, intelligent expressions" (Seyller, op.cit., p.44).
For a short note on the Zafarnama please see lot 3. For a list of other published miniatures from the manuscript, see the note accompanying lot 4.