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Mughal Paintings

The Confluence of cultures: the paintings of great Mughals

A fusion of foreign and indigenous elements may be seen in the works of art created during this time period. It was during this time that the Islamic, Hindu, and European aesthetics came together to become the pinnacle of Mughal painting. The significance of this style can be attributed to the sincerity and dedication of its patrons, as well as the extraordinary abilities of the artists who created it. By creating such an outstanding visual language, they envisioned and communicated a diverse range of viewpoints, ideologies, and religious beliefs, and were beautifully assimilated.

Development under different emperors:

Babur, the first Mughal ruler, arrived in 1526 from modern-day Uzbekistan, descended from Emperor Timur and Chatghtai Turk. With this, he combined Persia's cultural heritage and aesthetic sensibilities with those of Central Asia.

In 1530, Babur's son Humayun succeeded him, but he was beset by political instability. Humayun became more identified with an eclectic and assimilative political and cultural agenda for his dynastic kingdom. When Humayun regained control in India, he brought the master artists back with him, inspired by the artists and with a desire to recreate such art workshops in India. He asked two Persian painters, Mir Sayyid Ali and Abd us Samad, to set up shop in his court and paint royal portraits. It's worth noting that both artists were well-known and recognised for their abilities in the field of portraiture.

Humayun's legacy and interest in painting were continued by his illustrious son Akbar (1556–1605). Akbar's court historian, Abul Fazal, speaks on the emperor's love of the arts. The royal atelier employed over a hundred artists, according to him. The most talented Persian and indigenous Indian artists of the time were among them. This fusion of Indo-Persian painters resulted in the formation of a distinct style throughout this time period.

Akbar envisioned cultural unification and had some revered Hindu books translated. He commissioned the Persian translation and artwork of sacred Sanskrit scriptures. We can detect an increasing inclination for a category of naturalism adapted to supplement the rising diversity in mediaeval India in most of the paintings produced from the time that Europeans were in contact with the court of Akbar. Akbar established the Mughal miniature style and set norms, which his son Jahangir (1605–1627) took to new heights.

From a young age, Prince Salim (Jahangir) was interested in art. Unlike his father Akbar, who commissioned political and religiously significant paintings and manuscripts, Prince Salim had a peculiar taste and promoted sensitive observations and precise details. The paintings' edges were richly gilded in gold and adorned with vegetation, wildlife, and frequently posed human figures.

Paintings during the reigns of Shah Jahan and later Aurangazeb were more stiff and bland. Gardens, terraces, and other outdoor spaces dominated the themes. The monarchs that succeeded the Mughal dynasty gradually lost interest in and support for Mughal paintings. The Mughal School of Painting, which had embraced and presented the exuberating blend of the leading art traditions of its contemporary world, began to inspire the European artists of that time. Rembrandt, a celebrated European painter, was deeply inspired by the Mughal court painting and made studies of several Indian drawings to master the delicate lines. His studies show the celebrated position that the Mughal miniature painting occupied in the world art scene.


Later Mughals were not as artistic as their ancestors, we witness the decline of the empire and its richness.

Highly competent artists fled the Mughal atelier due to a gradual reduction of ardent patronage and were welcomed by provincial Royal monarchs. These monarchs tried to imitate the Mughal royalties by recreating the splendour of their dynasty and court events in paintings.

The new political climate, unsettled regional kingdoms, and the danger of English dominance altered India's cultural scene once more. The painters adapted to the shifting tastes of their patrons, their aesthetic concerns, subject matter preferences, and visual language. The Mughal miniature style eventually merged with other Provincial and Company School forms.


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