The Art of Asia



(16th-19th century)






In other states, such as Amber, Bikaner (in the first half of the seventeenth century), and Raghugarh, elements of the provincial Mughal drawing style were melded with the coloristic vibrancy and unmod-eled planes of color typical of the Rajput style (see below).

Krishna Fluting

In still others, such as Bundi (beginning in the last years of the sixteenth century) and Bikaner (in the second quarter of the seventeenth century), contemporaneous Mughal styles seem to have been the dominant influence, leading modes of drawing and coloration to be adopted that were more sophisticated and naturalistic than those of the popular Mughal tradition (see below).

A Royal Horse with his Groom

Panchama Ragini


Once produced for a court, manuscripts of this early period often became models for succeeding generations of artists at that court. In some cases we know this was because several generations of artists from a single family used the same preliminary drawings. In other instances artists undoubtedly had access to earlier sets of drawings and simply repeated their compositions, which contained all the requisite elements to portray a particular story or theme. As is to be expected in a conservative society; iconographic correctness was usually more important to the Indian artist than artistic innovation. However, the relative proportions of the pictures' components and the styles in which they were rendered show variations over time.
Akbar's long reign ended when he died in 1605. He was succeeded as Mughal emperor by Salim, his son by an Amber (Rajasthani) princess, who took the name Jahangir (World Seizer). Jahangir (r. 1605-27) divided his time between Lahore and Delhi. He had grown up during the heyday of Akbar's atelier and was a consummate connoisseur of painting; in a work set before him, he claimed, he could identify the hand of any of the court artists, no matter how small the contribution. When Jahangir had been appointed to posts in the provinces he had maintained his own artists, some of the best of whom worked in a Persian-inspired style. His taste was not for the ambitious manuscript projects dealing with historic or mythical events that his father had favored, but rather for highly finished single works that recorded his own experiences. Greater naturalism, a more subdued, less contrived palette, more lyrical compositions, and an increased depth of characterization were the result. The subject matter of paintings made during Jahangir's reign is idiosyncratic and seems quite clearly to reflect his own interests. His finest painters became specialists in particular genres such as portraiture or natural history studies (see below).

Nilgal (Blue Bull)

Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) with his Son Dara Shikoh


He also collected miniatures and had them set into albums with elaborately decorated margins. Jahangir probably reduced the size of Akbar's painting atelier on his accession, retaining only the finest of the artists most attuned to his own aesthetic. Some of the best of these—Manohar, Abu'l Hasan, and Govardhan—were the sons of artists from the Akbari atelier and had begun working in the atelier during Akbar's lifetime. The unneeded artists presumably sought patronage among the lesser nobility of the imperial and Hindu courts.
Jahangir's son Shah Jahan (r. 1627—58) ascended the Mughal throne in 1627. Although he undoubtedly enjoyed painting, he seems to have been less intent on sponsoring it than his father and grandfather: his chief penchants were building and the accumulation of jewels (see below).


Shah Julian on a Terrace Holding a Pendant Set with His Portrait


 While (like his grandfather Akbar) he commissioned an illustrated history of his reign, the Pad-shah-nama, in general a decorative approach to painting gained ascendancy, the intellectual probing of the Jahangiri period was lost, and manuscript production lagged. Shahjahan's love of luxury and decoration was expressed in a group of remarkable albums of both old and new pictures that were assembled at his behest. They were set in pages and the borders lavished with superb drawn or painted images, some carried out by the atelier's finest artists. Despite the emperor's lack of sustained interest, court painting continued throughout his reign, and some darbar (royal audience) scenes of great finish and quality were produced, as well as a great number of portraits, many of which glorified the emperor (see below). The royal atelier's size may have been reduced once again, for we know that some of the court artists accepted commissions from lesser members of the court to execute both miniatures and wall paintings.


Akbar, with Lion and Heifer

Shri Bhairavi Devi


Shah Jahan Watching an Elephant Fight


Shamsa (Rosette) Bearing the Name and Titles of the Emperor Shah Jahan


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