The History of Indian Mughal Miniature Painting

Part - 3

Libraries, which were founded by Emperor Akbar, not only had been carried out by his successors Jahangir and ShahJahan, but renovated and enhanced its collection. Unfortunately, those were ruined by the war of the 18th and 19th century, however, astonishingly, some of those paintings are still available elsewhere in personal collection or anyway. Those marvelous works are silently talking about their glorious past.   

Portrait of Jahangir.

 The successor of Emperor Akbar named Jahangir (Full name, Nur-ud-din Muhammad Salim Jahangir) entered the tradition of his father to the highest point which featured his royal test and decent manner. We found in his autobiography about his passion for painting, and the admiration he did for the royal artist. How much he loved artists! At a later time, artists who came from Europe to his royal court wrote down on his fascination with art. According to their statement, Emperor Jahangir had interacted with artists just like a friend. Sarif, who was the son of artist Abdus Samad got the honorary designation ‘Khan’ from Crown prince Jahangir. 



In his reign of thirteen years, he wrote in autobiography, - 'today, our royal artist Abul Hasan gift me a painting. He presented the painting to me as a cover image of the novel, Jahangirnama. The painting was indeed worth complementation, and therefore, I rewarded him. I think if Abdul Hai and Bihzad would exist, they will do the same as I did. His father, named Aka Reeza, was always with me when I was prince, and Hasan was born in my palace. But Hasan, the son, is more genius and talented than his father. I arranged his education, and as an outcome, it is hard to find a similarly talented person like him. His portrait is just outstanding’! Mansur was also an expert in decorative design. I named him Nadirul Asli. In my father's time and my reign yet, no one was such a great artist'.

 Here I would like to say that the list of notable artists composed by Abul Fazl has missed those names mentioned by Jahangir. It is probably because those artists were recognized in a later time of the reign of Akbar. In the past, I saw two of the paintings of Mansur in the museum of Calcutta. 


Emperor Jahangir estimated himself as a highly fascinated art critique. Of course, there was a legitimate reason behind such estimation. Based on the historic description, sometimes, Jahangir ordered several artists to compose a painting by splitting it up into several parts. Some funny matters related to such order, we could find in his autobiography.


 Jahangir said, 'I am passionate about painting and even so high that I could define easily; who has composed the painting. No matter if the artist lives or has passed. If several artists represent several portraits in the same painting, I can make an apprise, which portrait was made by who. I can even mention the artists if a single portrait is formed by several artists. I can define which part of the portrait is depicted by who.  Specifically, I can even mention who made the forehead, who made the eyebrow, and finally, who made the retouch on artwork.’

 If anyone considered it an arrogance of the Emperor, then it should keep in mind that those Mughal miniature paintings are recognized as the best and even expensive, which were sealed by Emperor Jahangir.

Prince Selim, the future Jahangir

 Once a time, Jahangir got some rare animals as a gift, from Goa. He ordered his royal artists to make a portrait of those animals. In his autobiography, he wrote, 'Emperor Akbar described some animals in his biography, however, most probably, he didn't order any live portraits of those animals, but I have done it’.


Jahangir emphasis on the portraiture of the accuracy of objects. It should be looking as it was. In his reign, the Indian painting had been going in this fashion; however, we have to keep in mind that it was not as same as verisimilitude European paintings. Rather, we could recognize it as a representational artwork. European paintings based on the dimensional touchability based on the tonal depth, light and shadows, contour, etc. But in the Indian painting, there was no dimensional depth, no color tones; only length and wide. Therefore, it looks flat.  The reason behind it is the high sunlight, which melts all the masses and their tonal variety and makes them flat. The legislation was, watch the object accurately as much as possible and then go back to the studio. Start a painting of that object with imaginative intuition. Follow what your eyes snapped at the object. This is the actual art. Such a sense makes Indian painting always modern by its soul.  


Will continue in next episode

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Last updated on - 25.09.2023