18+ Awe-Inspiring Mughal Paintings

Farrukh Beg Mughal Painting
Babur Receives a Courtier by Farrukh Beg (Circa: 1580-85)
It was my uncle who introduced me to the magical world of Mughal art. He, at that point of time, was working at the Red Fort, Delhi. Since then, I have a childish dream of becoming an emperor, one day, and if not an emperor, at least an artist like Jahangir.

Akbar as a boy (Circa: 1557)
I think I should stop here, talking about me and me only, and start talking about Mughal paintings before I bore you.

Akbar Receives Salim After Gujarat Campaign by Keshav and Nar Singh (Circa 1590-95)
The Mughal style of painting is a result of the confluence of Persian, Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist styles of painting.

The Victory of Khan Zaman on the river Gomti (Circa: 1561)
Some historians debate that the Mughal school started way back in the fall of the fifteenth century with Babur, and some historians credit Humayun for the development of the Mughal school of art.

Akbar riding the elephant Hawa'I
Though Humayun can get some points here, in his case, the royal artists started to paint in a manner that was different from Persian style and close to Mughal style. Humayun's major known commission, Khamsa of Nizami, is the best example of that early Mughal style.
A leaf from Hamzanama Manuscript (Source: Columbia.edu)
However, it was Akbar who rightfully owned the title of propagator of the Mughal school of painting.

A leaf from Tutinama (Circa 1580)
Akbar commissioned hundreds of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist artists, working side by side with Persian artists, and together they developed a new form of style, known as the Mughal style of painting.

A Leaf From Razmnama (Circa: 1598/99)
Tutinama (consisting of 250 miniatures), Hamzanama (46-volume, 48000-page work, consisting of 1400 illustrations), and Razmnama (Persian translation of Mahabharata, containing 161 illustrations) are some of the best works of his age.

Young Aurangzeb in his Durbar (Circa 1660)
The Mughal Paintings continued to thrive after Akbar. Jahangir, who was a great artist himself, is credited with the introduction of naturalism.

Jahangir weighs Prince Khurram (later known as Shahjahan)
He was influenced by the works of English artists. He encouraged his artists to use single-point perspective, favoured by Europeans, instead traditional multi-layered style.
Nurjahan, Padsah Begum
After Jahangir, the Mughal paintings saw a massive change during Shah Jahan's age. Mughal paintings became stale and artificial.

He eschewed charcoal and egged on the use of pencils.

Flowers by Ustad Mansur (Circa 1610)
There was also a dramatic increase in the use of gold and silver pigments.

A study of Nilgai from Shah Jahan Album (Circa: 1620)
But, with Aurangzeb, things turned for the worse. He did not encourage art, maybe due to dwindling state finances or  his orthodox Islamic views, and artists have to find new patrons.

The Battle of Shahbarghan (A leaf from Padshahnama)
Later, Muhammad Shah, the eleventh Mughal emperor, tried to revive the Mughal school of art, but after his death, no one came to rescue the Mughal school.

Veena Player
By that time, other schools of painting had also started to gain some prominence, and Mughal school was left behind.

Gurjari Ragini (Ragamala)
Today, one can still find artists in Lahore, who paint in Mughal style, but sadly, most of them reproduce copies of the old masters.
Muhammad Shah Smoking Huqqah (Circa: 1720)

Rosette Bearing Names and Titles of Shahjahan (Source: The MET)


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