The Mughals used trained cheetahs to capture prey during hunting expeditions in the wilderness. The metaphor of the hunt was also a potent image in Persian literature, in which the protagonist finally achieves a desired goal. The central image of the cheetah catching the black antelope — a frequently repeated visual trope — resonates with the desire of Prince Salim (who was passionate about hunting) to capture the throne of the Mughal Empire from Akbar, his father. Between 1600 and 1605, when Prince Salim set up his own royal court in defiance of his father, he convinced some imperial artists to join him. The young Govardhan, a Hindu who would go on to achieve high stature in the atelier of the next two emperors, was one of them.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art.