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Home >> Indian Painting Styles >> Mughal Paintings

Mughal Paintings

The very mention of Mughal Paintings evokes stylized images of richly draped figures involved in various court activities. Though there is very little regard for realism, these paintings capture ones imagination because of their unique style and selection of themes.

The popular perception of Mughal paintings is not altogether an unfounded one, these Paintings hardly follow the dictum of realism in style but their themes are as true to its period as possible. In fact they can be seen as the most substantial specimens of their times.

A blend of the Indian and the Persian style, these paintings depicted various themes. From scenes of a Mughal court to lovers in intimate positions, the themes were both informative and provocative.

The Genesis of Mughal Paintings

It all began with Humayun's fascination with Persian Paintings in the court of Shah Tahmasp II in Tabriz. So smitten was he with the Persion art Form that he brought two Persian Painters with him in India. The Indianised version of their work is what we know as the Mughal Paintings. The earliest example of Mughal Paintings would be the Tutinama (literal meaning “Tales of a Parrot”), now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Themes of Mughal Paintings

Mughal Paintings were rich in variety which included portraits, events and scenes from the court life, wild life and hunting scenes, and illustrations of battle fronts, some paintings also depicted lovers in intimate positions.

Style of Mughal Paintings

Mughal paintings paid keen attention to the intricacies of the designs of jewels and drapes, the realism factor was hardly ever taken into consideration. The focus was on the display of beauty.

The Patrons of Mughal Paintings

After Humayun, subsequent rulers like Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, were great patrons of the style.

Akbar , who was known for his love for art and culture, was liberal enough to let thousands of Mughal Painters depict scenes from the Hindu Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Mughal Paintings of this period were considerably more refined in terms of realism and theme.

Jahangir who had a keen artistic sense, helped in further development of the style. He encouraged the depiction of his life in Jahangirnama and also that of animal life an foliages. Jahangirnama had several unusual paintings like ones that depicted sexual union of a saint with a tigress, and fights between spiders.

Shah Jahan continued patroniosing Mughal paintings but the ones during his period were less imaginative and there was very little growth.

The Decline of Mughal Paintings

Aurangzeb , who had very little regard for any form of Art, did nothing to encourage the Mughal School of Painting. In fact it can be safely said that he contributed a lot to its decline. Subsequent rulers knew nothing about this once popular form and slowly the Mughal Paintings were all but forgotten.

The Revival of Mughal Paintings

The Mughal Paintings was to be revived in a different Avatar by the most unlike patrons, the Rajputs. In the courts of Rajput rulers this art form got a new lease of life and enjoyed much appreciation.

Some important Mughal Painters

It's unfortunate that most Mughal painters languish in anonymity because the style is prioritized to the content.

Ustad Mansur was an important Mughal painter of the 17 th Century. He specialized in depicting plants and animals.

Govardhan was another important Mughal Painter of the 17 th Century

Today Mughal Paintings have been lauded and appreciated all over the world. They have found their way to museums as far flung as the San Diego Museum of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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