The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Archive for March, 2012

“Heart Pleasing and Praiseworthy Buildings”

Astrolabe, by Qa'im Muhammad, Lahore, 1634/5 (©2005 Museum of the History of Science)

A new article  in the Pakistan Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences by Abdul Rehman and Munazzah Akhtar from the University of Engineering and Technology at Lahore provides some observations on technological aspects of Mughal Architecture.


Imperial Identity in the Mughal Empire

I.B. Tauris has published a new book on Imperial Identity in the Mughal Empire: Memory and Dynastic Politics in Early Modern Central Asia by Lisa Balabanlilar.

Description from the publisher:

Having monopolized Central Asian politics and culture for over a century, the Timurid ruling elite was forced from its ancestral homeland in Transoxiana at the turn of the sixteenth century by an invading Uzbek tribal confederation. The Timurids travelled south: establishing themselves as the new rulers of a region roughly comprising modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India, and founding what would become the Mughal Empire (1526-1857). The last survivors of the House of Timur, the Mughals drew invaluable political capital from their lineage, which was recognized for its charismatic genealogy and court culture – the features of which are examined here. By identifying Mughal loyalty to Turco-Mongol institutions and traditions, Lisa Balabanlilar here positions the Mughal dynasty at the centre of the early modern Islamic world as the direct successors of a powerful political and religious tradition.

Modes of Perception for Early Modern Architecture

Via Art-Hist:

Session for the Society of Architectural Historians 2013 Annual Conference, Buffalo, New York, USA, 10-14 April 2013

A conundrum stands at the heart of early modern architecture: treatise authors argued for reasoned analysis by the hypothetical viewer, yet they also suggested responses that slipped beyond the strictures of reason’s control. One could calculate mathematical proportions precisely in one’s mind, and one could develop a cogent argument about a building’s purpose or the status of its owner from logically organized observations of its design. The fifteenth-century Leon Battista Alberti, however, argued for the psychological impact of beauty, while the eighteenth-century LeCamus de Mézières explored how buildings were sequential stage-sets that manipulated response. Such accounts mirrored enigmas inherent to the basic human process of perceiving the surrounding world, as it was described by early modern philosophers: the fallible senses, the deceptive imagination, and the tug of war between reason and the passions.

Scholars have considered the early modern viewer across architectural history, art history, science, and philosophy. Underpinning these approaches is a certainty about the human body: it can both reason and be reasoned about. Early modern architectural, philosophical, and scientific theorists, though, agreed that reason was as likely to be in collaboration as in competition with other human faculties. We invite papers that explore this conundrum of rational analysis, psychological response, and idiosyncratic imagination. What are the approaches and sources that could open up a multi-faceted, malleable relationship between the early modern viewer and the built environment? Topics to consider include: representations of viewer and building, contemporaneous recommendations about perception, building types evoking multi-faceted responses (e.g., social reform structures, theaters), memory spaces, and studies of particular viewers reacting to specific buildings. Please submit a CV and an abstract of not more than 300 words by 1 June 2012 to: Freek Schmidt, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31205986372,; Kimberley Skelton, 50 Avalon Drive, #7222, Milford, CT 06460, USA, 443-253-5529, It is also possible to submit these materials online at: papers 2013&category=Annual Conference 2013&submenu=1&curlid=476#o.

I’d Care More for the Tweeting of Citations

Believe it or not, the MLA has published a protocol for the the citing of tweets. For the ensuing discussion see Allen Mikaelian here.


Word cloud of the first day of #dhlu realised by Frédéric Clavert with “many eyes” via Benoit Majerus

Benoit Majerus shares a “minimal digital toolbox”:

3rd Assignment, Part Two

Some relevant research institutions in the German-speaking world:

Via InfoNet:

MAK – Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst/Gegenwartskunst
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW) Kommission für Kunstgeschichte Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Universität Wien Institut für Geschichte
Institut für die Erforschung der Frühen Neuzeit
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien Universitätsbibliothek
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien Universitätsarchiv
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Archiv
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Museumsbibliothek
Universität Wien Universitätsbibliothek; Fachbereichsbibliothek Kunstgeschichte
Universität Wien Universitätsbibliothek; Hauptbibliothek  

Via Clio Online:

Universitätsbibliothek der Humboldt-Universität – Zweigbibliothek Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften
Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde München
Antikensammlung Berlin [Staatliche Museen zu Berlin]
Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften [Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin]
Zentrum für Asiatische und Afrikanische Studien (ZAAS)
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Orientabteilung
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut (KWI)
Zentralinstitut Islam-Archiv-Deutschland e.V.
Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

3rd Assignment, Part One

Photo: The tomb of Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605), Sikandra, India. (Uros Zver, 2011)

My interest in the title and subject of this blog took an irreversible turn when I first strolled around the serene gardens of the Red Fort in Delhi, built as imperial residence by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (r.1627-1658), the builder also of the famous Taj Mahal, in the first half of the seventeenth century. For Shah Jahan, who by this time had developed a strict formal architectural style emphasizing natural symmetry and vegetalized ornamentation, this meant building a palace whose baluster columns evoked cypresses, whose walls were adorned with naturalistic renderings of plants in marble relief, and blossoming pietra dura flowers of precious stones, replete with streams cascading through pavilions — an immortal paradisiacal garden of stone to mirror the passing beauty of its natural equivalent. The famous Koranic inscription I read above one of the portals in the garden, “If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!” has held me ever since.

These days I am in the early stages of writing a thesis about one of the Mughals’ most enigmatic architectural masterpieces, the tomb of Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605), who by his conquests and institutional innovations transformed a modest, insecure north Indian state he inherited from his father, to bequeath to his successors a stable, populous empire, whose wealth dwarfed that of his European, Ottoman and Persian contemporaries, and cemented the rule of this Turko-Mongol dynasty on the Indian subcontinent until the eighteenth century.

This blog is intended to deal with the Mughal dynasty more widely, including not only its art and architecture, but its history in the broadest sense. The items that will particularly interest me are those related to Mughal imperial ideology and its role in architectural programs, especially those of their magnificent dynastic tombs. What precisely did the ideology consist of, what was its development, and how (and why) was it translated into architectural monuments of such enduring appeal?


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