Interpreting Mughal Painting

Item Code: NAG648
Author: Som Prakash Verma
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9780195692570
Pages: 220 (7 color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


Lucid, detailed, and original, these essays on Mughal painting survey this art form as well as provide an introduction to the Mughal art of book-illustration, portraiture, and genre pictures. They showcase the Mughal artists’ concern for both aesthetic appeal and intellectual message.


What sets this book apart from the rest in the genre is the rich detail and intensive research characterized in discussions on distinctions between assignments, signatures, and later attributions in inscriptions on paintings; meticulous study of painting technique; and the use of painting as a historical source for the reconstruction of social life and technological advancements. Using diverse sources-Persian, Central Asian, European, and Indian-the author presents a rigorous yet stimulating account of Mughal painting.


Focusing on the origin and development of Mughal painting, S.P. Verma analyses key aspects like artists’ signatures, namesakes and their identity, and the evidence on self portrait painting in Indian art. He highlights the impact of Persian influence and Renaissance humanism on Mughal painting. Using pictorial evidence, the author also investigates areas like technology and firearms, flora and fauna, and ordinary day-to-day life during

the Mughal period.


About the Author

Som Prakash Verma retired as professor of History, Aligarh Muslim University in 2004. As a practicing artist, he has received awards from Indian Academy of Fine Arts, Amritsar (1981) and the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta (1982).




Scholarly interest in Mughal painting dates back to the early sixteenth century and since then art historians and critics have studied Indian and Islamic art with a special focus on illuminated manuscripts generally illustrated with pictures, and albums (muraqqa’s) containing portraits and genre pictures. The heritage of Islamic art in India that originated with the fusion of Indian and Islamic trends of art, has a distinct place in the realm of painting. Havell is the first significant figure to interpret Indian art in his book Indian Sculpture and Painting (1908). His book seriously urges that Indian art is in the main native rather than imported. In the section on Mughal painting he observes that Akbar’s liberal mind overrode Muslim religious scrupules against painting, and a most interesting school of portrait painting resulted that was curiously opposite to the Ajanta school. The study was followed by other scholarly works, notably Smith [(1), 1911]; Marteau and Vever [(1), 1912]; Martin [(1),1912]; Arnold and Binyon [(1), 1921]; Kuhnel [(2), 1922; (3), n.d.; (4), n.d.]; Kuhnel and Goetz [(1), 1923, English tr. 1926]; Brown [(1), 1924]; Gluck [(1), 1923; (2) 1925]; Stchoukine [(1), 1929]; and Blochet [(2), 1929, English translation by Binyon]. It must be mentiond that Mughal painting has quite often been equated to Islamic art. (For which see Martin [(1), 1912]; Blochet [(2), 1929], Binyon, Wilkinson and Gray [(1), 1933]; Godard and Gray [(1)], 1956 and Robinson [(3), 1976]). Rogers [(1), 1993] writes that Mughal painting could be described as a variety of Islamic painting practised in India, principally in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In his opinion the Mughal school of painting, by welding a very diverse mixture of cultural, religious and artistic traditions is one of the richest and most productive schools in the whole history ofIslamic painting (ibid., p. 8).


At the same time, numerous art exhibitions held at Delhi [1911: Loan Exhibition]; London [1922: Marriot (1)], Philadelphia [1923: Levis (1); 1924: Paintings and Drawings]; Wembly [1925: Binyon (3)]; Calcutta [1925: Brown (2)]; New York [1933-4: Dimand (3)]; Bombay [1939: Catalogue of the Loan Section]; Boston [1940: Ashton (2)]; Cleveland [1944: Hollis (1)]; London [1947-8: Ashton (1)]; and Delhi [1948: Agarwal (1)] further popularized the Indian miniatures. Descriptive catalogues of various prestigious art collections published by Manuk [(1), 1913]; Clarke [(1), 1921; (2) 1922]; Gupta [(1), 1922]; Stchoukine [(2), 1929]; Coomaraswamy [(7), 1930]; Arnold and Wilkinson [(1), 1936]; Godard [(1), 1936; (2), 1937]; Bahrami [(1), 1949]; and Godard and Gray [(1), 1956] additionally deepened the interest of scholars in Mughal painting. Other notable catalogues published later are by Hajek [(1),1960]; Gangoly [(3),1961]; Badri Atabai [(1), Shamsi 1353]; Grube [(1); (3),1962]; Robinsop [(2), 1976]; Titley [(1),1977]; Falk and Archer [(1),1981]; Welch, Schimmel, Swietochowski and Thackston [(1), 1987], and Pal [(3), 1973; (6),1993].


Amongst the several art exhibitions held during the later half of the twentieth century, the most important are: Portland [1962: Persian and Indian Miniatures]; New York [1963: Welch (6); 1973: Welch (7), 1986: Welch (11)]; and London [1976: Robinson (4); Princely Paintings; 1982: Losty (1); 1983: Leach (1)]. An exhibition of the Padshahnama miniatures from the Royal Library, Windsor held at National Museum, Delhi in 1997 deserves special mention [Beach, Koch, and Thackston (1), 1997]. Such exhibitions accompanied with illustrated catalogues evoked a genuine interest in miniature painting.


Additionally, distinct works (not mentioned above) on Mughal art include Smith, V.A. [(1), 1911]; Arnold and Binyon [(1), 1921]; Brown [(1), 1924]; Mehta [(3), 1926]; Gluck [(2), 1925]; Moti Chandra [(2), 1946]; Wilkinson [(6), 1948]; Krishnadasa and Kabir [(1),1955]; Rawson [(1), 1961]; Barrett and Gray [(1), 1963]; Bussagli [(1), 1969, and Shivaramamurti (2), n.d.]; Shanti Swarup [(2), 1968; (3), 1983)]; Chaitanya [(1), 1979]; Niharranjan Ray [(1), 1975]; Asok, K. Das [(5), 1978; (6), 1982]; Beach [(3), 1978; (5) 1981; (6) 1987; (7); 1992]; and Verma [(8),1978; (18),1994; (32), 2005].


A study of an individual painter’s style and work too fascinated art historians, and some illustrious Mughal painters were extensively studied: Miskin [Staude (7), 1929]; Farrukh Beg [Skelton (1), 1957; Ahmad, N. (2),1961; Verma (5),1978]; Khwaja Abdu-s Samad [Staude (1),1931; Ettinghausen (1),1960; Dickson and Welch (1),1981; Verma (15),1987]; Basawan [Staude (2), 1960; Lal [Verma (20), 1998]; Welch (4),1963]; Daswant [Staude (8), 1960]; Mir Sayyid Ali [Chaghatai (5), 1954; Scerrato (1),1960; Dickson and Welch (1),1981]; Farrukh Chela [Anand Krishna (2), 1971; Verma (2), 1977-8]; Bishandas [Das (2), 1971], and Abu’l Hasan [Beach (1),1965; (4), 1980]. In this context, the work of Amina Okada [(1), n.d.]. and the two volumes of the Marg Publications [Pratapaditya Pal (5), 1991; and Das (7), 1998] devoted to the study of the master painters further contribute to our knowledge. Here a reference to the volume Mughal Painters and Their Work: A Biographical Survey and Descriptive Catalogue (Delhi, 1994) by the present author [Verma (18), 1994] will not be out of place. Another work [Verma (24), 1999], a monograph on the most prolific Mughal painter: Ustad Mansur ‘Nadir ul’Asr’ is a move to call forth such monographic study of the Mughal masters.


Likewise, an exclusive study of a particular illustrated manuscript or an album (muraqqa’), for example, Diwan-i Hafiz [Stchoukine (3), 1931; Welch 0), 1958; Verma (7), 1978-9]; Hamzanama [Gluck (2), 1925; Egger (1), 1982]; Bostan of Sa’di [Stchoukine (3), 1937]; Akbarnama [Staude (6), 1928-9; Arnold and Wilkinson (2), 1937; Sen (3), 1984; Verma (8), 1980; (16), 1993]; Harivansha [Skelton (5), 1970]; Anwar-i Suhaili [Verma (3) 1977; Seyller (2), 1985]; Tutinama [Pramod Chandra and Ehnbom (1), 1973; Simsar (1), 1978]; Baburnama [Tyulayev (3), 1960; Suleiman (1), 1970; Randhawa (3), 1983]; Diwan of Anwari [Welch and Schimmel (1), 1983]; Padshahnama [Verma (14), 1986; Beach, Koch, and Thackston 0), 1997] further enrich the material on Mughal painting. These provide excellent descriptions of miniatures.


Let us recall here Goetz who has rightly observed in respect of modern research on Mughal painting:


It is perhaps one of the most serious defects in the organization of modern scientific study that the fundamental information on research is rarely to be found systematically arranged in one place. All earnest research scholars must waste much initial time in gathering together the working materials from every side whither chance or special circumstances have scettered them. For this reason it is always of value to have a complete survey in any field of study-a resume of everything related to this field of study that is to be found in any private collection or museum, in any town or city, in any country.


Needless to say that the above-mentioned modern works fill this lacuna in respect of Mughal painting and make the material scattered all over the world, substantially available to scholars, critics, and art connoisseurs.


It is notable that ornithologists and lovers of wildlife, too, have shown a keen interest in Mughal painting. Mention may be made of the Twelfth International Ornithological Congress at Helsinki, Finland in 1958 where a Mughal miniature containing the likeness of a bird dodo (Raphus cucullatus L.), now extinct, aroused in general, a curiosity to explore further the paintings of Mughal school to construct a picture of the wildlife in past. Even earlier to that, Salim Ali [(1), 1927], a pioneer ornithologist of India had already initiated the scientific study of oriental pictures of birds. This work inspired Alvi and Rahman [(1), 1968] to study wildlife and they made extensive use of seventeenth century Mughal miniatures. Some other studies, however, are general in nature: Saraswati [(1), 1948]; Hasan [(1), 1963]; and Shanti Swarup [(3), 1983]. A volume of Marg publications devoted to the study of flora and fauna in Mughal art is equally important [Verma (22) 1999].


Lastly, historians concerned with the socio-cultural history of India, too, have extensively surveyed Mughal miniatures for information on science and technology, architecture, life and conditions of ordinary people, gender history, and a variety of themes in material culture. Irfan Habib [(2), 1980; (3), 1986; (4), 2000] has deeply probed the Mughal miniatures to substantiate his findings on science and technology. Other related works are by Qaisar [(2), 1988; (3) 1992]; Verma [(9), 1983; (10), 1985; (13), 1986]; Sarma [(1), 2002]; and Ishrat Alam [(2), 1986]. The present author’s volume Art and Material Culture in the Paintings of Akbar’s Court (1978) is an important link in this particular aspect of study.


Wellesz [(3), 1952] finds in Mughal paintings an expression of Mughal patron’s religious thought: and for W. Smith [(1), 1981] and Moosvi [(2), 1994; (3), 2003; (4) 2004] Mughal paintings are of considerable importance in their essays on gender study and ordinary people [see also Verma (29), 2002]. Thus, the school of Mughal painting engages a variety of scholars and its recognition in various disciplines of study, that is, art, architecture, history, religion, science and technology, and the like, is widespread.






List of Illustrations






List of Abbreviations






Artists’ Signatures in Miniatures of the Mughal School



The Tulip (ea 1621): A Study by Mansur



Problem of Namesakes and Their Identity:


Parrukh, Farrukh Kalan, Farrukh Khwurd, Farrukh Chela and Farrukh Beg



Aspects of Paintings in the British Museum Manuscript of the Akbarnama



Evidence on Self-Portrait Painting in Indian Art



Humanism in Mughal Painting



Persian and Mughal Painting: The Fundamental Relationship



Technology in Mughal India: Evidence of Mughal Painting



Firearms in Sixteenth Century India: A Study based on Mughal Paintings of Akbar’s Period



Ordinary Life in Mughal India: A Survey of Mughal Painting












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