The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Archive for Painting

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 See also the accompanying book by J.P. Losty and Malini Roy including various previously unpublished works: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


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.

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