The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Archive for Exhibitions

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 See also the accompanying book by J.P. Losty and Malini Roy including various previously unpublished works: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.


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.


Edward Hodgkin’s favourite Mughal, Deccan and other miniatures from his collection are being shown at the Ashmolean untill 22 April, but there’s also an online show.

The image above by Khurshid Banu (c.1600) shows an elephant fight. Akbar was a great fan of these spectacles, but may have died from a heart attack after a quarrel broke out between his sons at an elephant fight in 1605.

Re: Journey to the Heart of Islam

An aerial view shows Muslim pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage rituals on November 7, 2011. By Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images. 

Via Andrew Sullivan: Joy Lo Dico’s thoughts on the exhibit:

Gulf News has estimated that the Hajj and the Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage that can be conducted at any time of year, contributes $30 billion to the economy, through the provision of accommodation, travel services, even animals for slaughter. That is 6 percent of the Saudi’s total GDP—with oil revenues stripped out, it’s more like 15 percent. Saudi Arabia’s status as patron has been repaid magnificently. As the river of black gold runs dry and the Hajj continues to grow, it not unthinkable that it will become the country’s greatest financial asset.
For Malise Ruthven’s review see below.

After Aurangzeb

The Asia Society has an exhibition on ‘Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857’, by William Dalrymple, Yuthika Sharma and Adriana Proser. Runs through May 6.
%d bloggers like this: