Mughal paintings are a particular style of South Asian painting,
generally confined to miniatures either as book illustrations or as
single works to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian
miniature painting (itself largely of Chinese origin), with Indian
Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed largely in the
court of the
Mughal Empire of the 16th to 18th centuries.
Mughal paintings later spread to other Indian courts, both Muslim and
Hindu, and later Sikh. The mingling of foreign Persian and indigenous
Indian elements was a continuation of the patronisation of other
aspects of foreign culture as initiated by the earlier Turko-Afghan
Delhi Sultanate, and the introduction of it into the subcontinent by
various Central Asian Turkic dynasties, such as the Ghaznavids.
Humayun (1530–40 and 1555–56)
Shah Jahan (1628–59)
3 Later paintings
5 Mughal style today
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
This art of painting developed as a blending of Persian and Indian
ideas. There was already a Muslim tradition of miniature painting
under the Turko-Afghan
Sultanate of Delhi
Sultanate of Delhi which the Mughals overthrew,
and like the Mughals, and the very earliest of Central Asian invaders
into the subcontinent, patronized foreign culture. Although the first
surviving manuscripts are from Mandu in the years either side of 1500,
there were very likely earlier ones which are either lost, or perhaps
now attributed to southern Persia, as later manuscripts can be hard to
distinguish from these by style alone, and some remain the subject of
debate among specialists. By the time of the Mughal invasion, the
tradition had abandoned the high viewpoint typical of the Persian
style, and adopted a more realistic style for animals and plants.
No miniatures survive from the reign of the founder of the dynasty,
Babur, nor does he mention commissioning any in his diaries, the
Baburnama. Copies of this were illustrated by his descendents, Akbar
in particular, with many portraits of the many new animals Babur
encountered when he invaded India, which are carefully described.
However some surviving un-illustrated manuscripts may have been
commissioned by him, and he comments on the style of some famous past
Persian masters. Some older illustrated manuscripts have his seal on
them; the Mughals came from a long line stretching back to
were fully assimilated into
Persianate culture, and expected to
patronize literature and the arts.
Mughal painting immediately took a much greater interest in realistic
portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants
were also more realistically shown. Although many classic works of
Persian literature continued to be illustrated, as well as Indian
works, the taste of the
Mughal emperors for writing memoirs or
diaries, begun by Babur, provided some of the most lavishly decorated
texts, such as the
Padshahnama genre of official histories. Subjects
are rich in variety and include portraits, events and scenes from
court life, wild life and hunting scenes, and illustrations of
battles. The Persian tradition of richly decorated borders framing the
central image was continued.
The style of the Mughal school developed within the royal atelier.
Knowledge was primarily transmitted through familial and
apprenticeship relationships, and the system of joint manuscript
production which brought multiple artists together for single
Humayun (1530–40 and 1555–56)
Princes of the House of Timur, attributed to Abd as-Samad,
The Parrot addresses Khojasta, a scene from the Tutinama. Reign of
Jahangir weighs Prince Khurram by Manohar Das, 1610-15.
Shah Jahan standing on a globe, c. 1618-19 to 1629.
Opaque Watercolor, ink and gold on paper. Freer Sackler Gallery
When the second Mughal emperor,
Humayun was in exile in
Tabriz in the
Safavid court of
Shah Tahmasp I
Shah Tahmasp I of Persia, he was exposed to Persian
miniature painting, and commissioned at least one work there, an
unusually large painting of Princes of the House of Timur, now in the
British Museum. When
Humayun returned to India, he brought two
accomplished Persian artists
Abd al-Samad and
Mir Sayyid Ali
Mir Sayyid Ali with him.
His usurping brother
Kamran Mirza had maintained a workshop in Kabul,
which Humayan perhaps took over into his own. Humayan's major known
commission was a
Khamsa of Nizami
Khamsa of Nizami with 36 illuminated pages, in which
the different styles of the various artists are mostly still
apparent. Apart from the London painting, he also commissioned at
least two miniatures showing himself with family members, a type of
subject that was rare in Persia but was to be common among the
Mughal painting developed and flourished during the reigns of Akbar,
Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
During the reign of Humayun's son
Akbar (r. 1556-1605), the
imperial court, apart from being the centre of administrative
authority to manage and rule the vast Mughal empire, also emerged as a
centre of cultural excellence.
Akbar inherited and expanded his
father's library and atelier of court painters, and paid close
personal attention to its output. He had studied painting in his youth
under Abd as-Samad, though it is not clear how far these studies
Between 1560 and 1566 the
Tutinama ("Tales of a Parrot"), now in the
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art was illustrated, showing "the stylistic
components of the imperial Mughal style at a formative stage".
Among other manuscripts, between 1562 and 1577 the atelier worked on
an illustrated manuscript of the
Hamzanama consisting of 1,400 canvas
folios. Sa'di's masterpiece The Gulistan was produced at Fatehpur
Sikri in 1582, a
Darab Nama around 1585; the
Khamsa of Nizami
Khamsa of Nizami (British
Library, Or. 12208) followed in the 1590s and Jami's Baharistan around
1595 in Lahore. As Mughal-derived painting spread to
Hindu courts the
texts illustrated included the
Hindu epics including the
the Mahabharata; themes with animal fables; individual portraits; and
paintings on scores of different themes. Mughal style during this
period continued to refine itself with elements of realism and
naturalism coming to the fore. Between the years of 1570 to 1585 Akbar
hired over a one hundred painters to practice Mughal style
Jahangir had an artistic inclination and during his reign Mughal
painting developed further. Brushwork became finer and the colors
Jahangir was also deeply influenced by European painting.
During his reign he came into direct contact with the English Crown
and was sent gifts of oil paintings, which included portraits of the
King and Queen. He encouraged his royal atelier to take up the single
point perspective favoured by European artists, unlike the flattened
multi-layered style used in traditional miniatures. He particularly
encouraged paintings depicting events of his own life, individual
portraits, and studies of birds, flowers and animals. The
Jahangirnama, written during his lifetime, which is an
autobiographical account of Jahangir's reign, has several paintings,
including some unusual subjects such as the union of a saint with a
tigress, and fights between spiders.
Shah Jahan (1628–59)
During the reign of
Shah Jahan (1628–58), Mughal paintings continued
to develop, but court paintings became more rigid and formal. The
illustrations from the "Padshanama" (chronicle of the King of the
world), one of the finest Islamic manuscripts from the Royal
Collection, at Windsor, were painted during the reign of Shah Jahan.
Written in Persian on paper that is flecked with gold, has exquisitely
rendered paintings. The "Padshahnama" has portraits of the courtiers
and servants of the King painted with great detail and individuality.
In keeping with the strict formality at court, however the portraits
of the King and important nobles was rendered in strict profile,
whereas servants and common people, depicted with individual features
have been portrayed in the three -quarter view or the frontal view.
Themes including musical parties; lovers, sometimes in intimate
positions, on terraces and gardens; and ascetics gathered around a
fire, abound in the Mughal paintings of this period.[citation
Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not actively encourage Mughal paintings, but
as this art form had gathered momentum and had a number of patrons,
Mughal paintings continued to survive, but the decline had set in.
Some sources however note that a few of the best Mughal paintings were
made for Aurangzeb, speculating that they believed that he was about
to close the workshops and thus exceeded themselves in his behalf.
There was a brief revival during the reign of
Muhammad Shah 'Rangeela'
(1719–48), but by the time of
Shah Alam II
Shah Alam II (1759–1806), the art of
Mughal painting had lost its glory. By that time, other schools of
Indian painting had developed, including, in the royal courts of the
Rajput kingdoms of Rajputana,
Rajput painting and in the cities ruled
by the British East India Company, the
Company style under Western
influence. Late Mughal style often shows increased use of perspective
and recession under Western influence.
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A durbar scene with the newly crowned Emperor
Aurangzeb in his golden
throne. Though he did not encourage Mughal painting, some of the best
work was done during in his reign.
The Persian master artists
Abd al-Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, who had
Humayun to India in the 16th century, were in charge of
the imperial atelier during the formative stages of Mughal painting.
Many artists worked on large commissions, the majority of them
apparently Hindu, to judge by the names recorded. Mughal painting
flourished during the late 16th and early 17th centuries with
spectacular works of art by master artists such as Basawan, Lal,
Daswanth, and Miskin. Another influence on the evolution of style
during Akbar's reign was Kesu Das, who understood and developed
"European techniques of rendering space and volume".
Govardhan was a noted painter during the reigns of Akbar,
The sub-imperial school of
Mughal painting included artists such as
Mushfiq, Kamal, and Fazl.
During the first half of the 18th century, many Mughal-trained artists
left the imperial workshop to work at Rajput courts. These include
artists such as Bhawanidas and his son Dalchand.
Mughal painting generally involved a group of artists, one to decide
the composition, the second to actually paint, and the third to focus
on portraiture, executing individual faces.
Mughal style today
Mughal-style miniature paintings are still being created today by a
small number of artists in
Lahore concentrated mainly in the National
College of Arts. Although many of these miniatures are skillful copies
of the originals, some artists have produced contemporary works using
classic methods with, at times, remarkable artistic effect.
The skills needed to produce these modern versions of Mughal
miniatures are still passed on from generation to generation, although
many artisans also employ dozens of workers, often painting under
trying working conditions, to produce works sold under the signature
of their modern masters.
Portrait of Akbar
Portrait of Bahadur Shah
A noble lady, Mughal dynasty, India. 17th century. Color and gold on
paper. Freer Gallery of Art F1907.219
A Mughal prince and ladies in a garden
Shah Jahan on a terrace holding a pendant set with his portrait
Daud Khan Karrani receives a
Kaftan of honor from Munim Khan
A Mughal tournament
Victory of Ali Quli Khan on the river Gomti-Akbarnama, 1561
Mir Sayyid Ali's depiction of a young scholar in the Mughal Empire,
reading and writing a commentary on the Quran, 1559.
The scribe and painter of the
Khamsa of Nizami
Khamsa of Nizami manuscript for Akbar
Battle scene from the
Hamzanama of Akbar, 1570
The Submission of the rebel brothers Ali Quli and Bahadur Khan.
Akbar riding the elephant Hawa'I pursuing another elephant across a
collapsing bridge of boats (right), 1561
Pir Muhammad Drowns While Crossing the Narbada-Akbarnama, 1562
Akbar receiving his sons at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbarnama, 1573
Lion at rest Met
A young woman playing a Veena to a parakeet, a symbol of her absent
lover. 18th-century painting in the provincial Mughal style of Bengal
Female performer with a tanpura, 18th century. Color and gold on
paper. Freer Gallery of Art F1907.195
Ascetic Seated on Leopard's Skin, late 18th century
Mughal Ganjifa Playing Cards, Early 19th century, with miniature
paintings - courtesy of the Wovensouls collection
Mushfiq, a sub-imperial Mughal painter
^ Titley, 161-166
^ Titley, 161
^ Titley, 187
^ Sarafan, Greg (6 November 2011). "Artistic Stylistic Transmission in
the Royal Mughal Atelier". Sensible Reason.
^ Beach, 58
^ Beach, 49
^ Commentary by Stuart Cary Welch
^ Diamind, Maurice. "Mughal Painting Under
Akbar the Great"
Metropolitan Museum of Art
^ Bloom, Jonathan M.; Blair, Sheila S. (2009). The Grove Encyclopedia
Islamic Art and Architecture. 1. Oxford University Press.
p. 380. ISBN 978-0-19-530991-1.
Basawan & Chitra (c.1590-95). "The Submission of the rebel
brothers Ali Quli and Bahadur Khan-Akbarnama". Akbarnama. Check
date values in: date= (help)
Beach, Milo Cleveland, Early Mughal painting, Harvard University
Press, 1987, ISBN 0-674-22185-0, ISBN 978-0-674-22185-7
Eastman, Alvan C. "Mughal painting." College Art Association . 3.2
(1993): 36. Web. 30 Sep. 2013.
"Grove", Oxford Art Online, "Indian sub., §VI, 4(i): Mughal ptg
styles, 16th–19th centuries", restricted access.
"Mughal Painting." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica
Academic Online Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013.Web. 30
Titley, Norah M., Persian Miniature Painting, and its Influence on the
Art of Turkey and India, 1983, University of Texas Press, 0292764847
Sarafan, Greg, "Artistic Stylistic Transmission in the Royal Mughal
Atelier", Sensible Reason, LLC, 2007, SensibleReason.com
Kossak, Steven. (1997). Indian court painting, 16th-19th century.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870997831
Painting for the Mughal Emperor (The Art of the Book 1560-1660) by
Susan Stronge (ISBN 0-8109-6596-8)
Fiction in Mughal Miniature Painting by Prof. P. C. Jain and Dr.
Painting the Mughal Experience by Som Prakash Verma, 2005
Chitra, Die Tradition der Miniaturmalerei in Rajasthan by K.D.
Christof & Renate Haass, 1999 (ISBN 978-3-89754-231-0)
Welch, Stuart Cary; et al. (1987). The Emperors' album: images of
Mughal India. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Welch, Stuart Cary (1985). India: art and culture, 1300-1900. New
York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780944142134.
Artistic Stylistic Transmission in the Royal Mughal
Atelier by Greg
Sarafan, Esq., 2007
Indian Court Painting, 16th-19th Century from the Metropolitan Museum
National Museum, Delhi - Mughal paintings
San Diego Museum of Art
See also Decoration
Persian (Early, Qajar, Safavid)
Istanbul (Arts, Calligraphy Art)
Jerusalem (Islamic Museum, L. A. Mayer Institute)
London (British Museum, V&A)
Marrakech (Museum, Majorelle Garden)
Paris (Arab World Institute, Louvre)
Toronto (Aga Khan)
Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World
Aniconism in Islam
Islamic world contributions to Medieval Europe
Influences on Western art
Mathematics and architecture
Oriental carpets in Renaissance painting
Muhammad Azam Shah
Bahadur Shah I
Shah Jahan II
Ahmad Shah Bahadur
Shah Jahan III
Shah Alam II
Bahadur Shah II
Battle of Panipat (1526)
Battle of Khanwa
Battle of Ghaghra
Siege of Sambhal
Battle of Panipat (1556)
Battle of Thanesar
Siege of Chittorgarh
Siege of Ranthambore
Battle of Tukaroi
Battle of Raj Mahal
Battle of Haldighati
Battle of Bhuchar Mori
Siege of Kandahar
Safavid War (1622–23)
Siege of Orchha
Safavid War (1649–53)
Battle of Samugarh
Battle of Khajwa
Suppression of Tilpat rebellion
Siege of Purandhar
Siege of Bijapur
Siege of Jinji
Siege of Golconda
Battle of Karnal
Third Battle of Panipat
Battle of Buxar
Siege of Delhi
Gardens of Babur
Tomb of Salim Chishti
Bibi Ka Maqbara
Shah Jahan Mosque, Thatta
Tipu Sultan Mosque
Wazir Khan Mosque
Sher Shah Suri
Sir Josiah Child
Guru Gobind Singh
Nawabs of Bengal
Nizam of Hyderabad
Kingdom of Mysore
Kufic (Geometric Kufic)
Islamic illuminated manuscript
List of Arabic calligraphers
List of Ottoman calligraphers
List of Persian calligraphers
Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation
Museum of Turkish Calligraphy Art
Society of Iranian Calligraphists
Part of Islamic arts
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