The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

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Les arts de l’Islam au Musée du Louvre


Slightly overdue, but nonetheless: a review of the new Islamic Galleries at the Louvre, the museum’s greatest architectural work since the Grand Louvre.


Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire

Dynastic group portrait of Emperors Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir with the poet Sa’di on the left and an attendant on the right. Hashim, c. 1620. Johnson Album 64,38 © The British Library Board

An exhibit of the British Library’s Mughal collection is on view until 2 April 2013. For an introduction see Malini Roy’s article in the Telegraph. See also the accompanying book by J.P. Losty and Malini Roy including various previously unpublished works:

From the colophon:

This book showcases the British Library’s extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings that were commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life. The exquisitely decorated works span four centuries, from the foundation of the Mughal dynasty by Babur in the sixteenth century, through the heights of the empire and the ‘Great’ Mughal emperors of the seventeenth century, into the decline and eventual collapse in the nineteenth century.

The lavish artworks cover a variety of subject matter, from scenes of courtly life including lively hunting parties and formal portraits of emperors to illustrations of works of literature which manage to convey complex storylines in a single image, and dramatic panoramas of Indian landscapes. The development of a Mughal style of art can be traced through the illustrations and paintings, as can the influence of European styles, originally as imported exotica.

Many of these works have never before been published, and combined here with the engaging narrative of two subject experts who place each image within its historical and art historical context they serve to provide us with a beautiful and illuminating view of the art and culture of Mughal India.

Worlds within Worlds

Young Akbar Recognizes His Mother. From an Akbarnama (Book of Akbar)
Attributed to Madhava (act. 1582–ca. 1624)
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1596–1600
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper

A lovely website dedicated to the exhibit of the Smithsonian’s Mughal painting collection earlier this year.

After he was overthrown and ousted from Delhi in 1540, Emperor Humayun and his family sought refuge in Iran. His son Akbar was born on the long journey. The baby, left in the care of attendants for safety, rejoined his parents only three years later. Humayun, curious whether Akbar would recognize his mother, arranged a test for the child. Although she entered the court without fanfare, Akbar immediately ran into his mother’s arms. This remarkable act of recognition is included in the Akbarnama as early evidence of the emperor’s greatness.


The ‘Underground Mogor’: Portuguese Texts On Timurid India

Portrait of a European, ca. 1590. V&A Museum.

Jorge Flores will give a lecture on lesser known Portuguese texts on the Mughals on 15 November at the Center for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, in Vienna.

From the last decades of the 16th century onwards, the Mughal Empire became an object of observation of different Europeans who lived or traveled in South Asia. Independent travelers, VOC and EIC officials, Jesuit missionaries and Estado da Índia agents, all wrote extensively about Timurid India. Some of these texts were printed and widely known back in Europe, thus molding the Western image(s) of the empire founded by Babur in 1526. Names like Thomas Roe, Edward Terry, Francisco Pelsaert, François de La Boullaye-Le-Gouz or François Bernier are cases in point and immediately come to mind. The present lecture aims to considering less known texts, drawings and their authors, and to discussing their conditions of production and circulation. A set of interesting materials, often in manuscript form and mostly penned by Portuguese authors, which constitute the basis of the “Underground Mogor“.

Il più grande

Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) holds a religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the two men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques.
Illustration to the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh, ca. 1605

Gian Carlo Calza will be giving a lecture on Akbar and his religious nondiscrimination today at 18h at Palazzo Sciarra in Rome.

Akbar. Il Grande Imperatore dell’India

Akbar’s pilgrimage to Ajmer in thanksgiving for the birth of Prince Mirza Salim, 1590-1595 by Basawan. V&A

A show of over 130 paintings and artefacts from Akbar’s India organized by Fondazione Roma and curated by Gian Carlo Calza can be seen at the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome until 3 February 2013. This is, to my knowledge, the biggest exhibition on Akbar ever to be held in Europe and it contains numerous masterpieces, some of them shown for the first time outside their home institutions. It is a pity the exhibit is not receiving the attention it deserves here in Italy, not to mention abroad.

Muhammad Juki’s Shah-namah

Over at The Mughalist, a video-lecture by Barbara Brend on Muhammad Juki’s Shah-namah:

[tracing] the history of one manuscript of the Shah-namah–one likely commissioned by the Timurid prince Muhammad Juki (d. 1447), which later entered the royal library of the Mughals in India.

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