The Zafarnama of Yazdi, is the history or 'Book of Victory' of Timur and Khalil Sultan. Commissioned by Timur's grandson Ibrahim Sultan ibn Shahrukh, the governor of Shiraz, the text, in ornate prose, was completed by Sharaf al-Din 'Ali Yazdi in AH 828/1424-25 AD. It was much acclaimed in Iran, and by 1595 a copy - illustrated with twelve paintings by the master Bihzad - had been acquired by the Mughal court. The now dispersed manuscript from which these three miniatures come, was ordered for the library of the Emperor Akbar, probably between 1595 and 1600 AD. The illustrations to the manuscript were done in the Imperial Mughal atelier by some of the Emperor's top artists in the refined style characteristic of Akbar's later years. Until the emergence of this dispersed manuscript, the only known Mughal copy of the text was one completed in July 1600 - illustrated in the sub-imperial Mughal style, probably for Mirza 'Aziz Koka, the governor of Ahmadabad. Seyller argues that because patrons of this class typically emulated imperial taste in books and painting, this date strongly suggests that our dispersed manuscript was produced earlier - a supposition corroborated by the roll of painters involved in its illustration (John Seyller and Konrad Seitz, Mughal and Deccani Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Zurich, 2010, p.42).
Dharm Das had a distinguished career which is thought to have begun around 1580 - his earliest identified works are two double-sided folios in the Darabnama now in the British Library (Or.4615). At that early stage he is thought to have been mostly restricted to colouring, but by the 1590s he was responsible also for outlines and portraiture. During this period his interest in figures in motion, modeling of cloth and drapery and carefully observed character types manifested itself. Beach describes him as a "superb painter, at his best with spatially and narratively complex scenes" - clearly visible in the present miniature (Milo Cleveland Beach, The Imperial Image. Paintings for the Mughal Court, Washington D.C., 1981, p.105). He contributed to many of the greatest royal manuscripts of the period including a Darabnama (circa 1588), the Ramayana (1598), the Khamsa of Amir Khusraw (1597-98), the Khamsa of Nizami (1597-98), the Baburnama (1598) and the Akbarnama (1602-05). For a complete list of works see Beach, op. cit., 1981, pp.106-07.
For a list of other known folios from this copy of the Zafarnama, see the note accompanying lot 4.