The History of Indian Mughal Miniature Painting

Part -4

 The first emperor Babur was a kind of naturalist. He was interested in flowers, fruits, leaves, creepers, birds, animals, insects and wrote down all of those in his diary by investigating thoroughly. As a genetic successor, Emperor Jahangir had the same passion. In his reign, a lot of paintings of the animal world and trees were created. Historians, however, have shown some paintings where we can see the event of royal hunting, and in those paintings, animals were depicted very accurately with their wildness. Emperor Jahangir usually ordered to paint those flowers or animals, which were very rare, collected from the farthest countries with hard efforts. Still, most of those are patronage in several places. In such a way, a volumetric album of animals and birds got prepared. It is conjectured; how the artists of the royal court gave their full efforts to make the emperor happy.


Turkey hen by Mansur.

The best Mughal miniature painting among the animal category was a bird. It's worth appreciating the artist who made this beautiful portrait of a bird with great color, composition, and undoubtable accuracy. As far as I know, it was by the artist named Mansur. The painting was officially stamped by the emperor Jahangir. In his diary, Jahangir wrote about this artwork. Here, I am trying to translate it from Tuzuk e-Jahangiri. It was the time when Jahangir had been running seven years of his throne. At that time, he sent Maqbara Khan to Goa as his envoy. Maqbara Khan bought a few rare animals for the Emperor while he was returning. With immense happiness, Jahangir wrote, - ‘A few of those animals I never have seen yet. I got curious. Emperor Babur described some rare animals in his autobiography, but he didn’t order to portray those animals. But I have done. Animals that were represented here are so rare and beautiful that I wrote a good description of those and ordered them to be portrayed for the novel Jahangirnama. I guess; readers will be astonished more to see the images than read the description of those animals. One of those was looking like a peahen; however, it was bigger than a peahen but shorter than a peacock. The beak and legs of the bird are similar to common roosters; however, the colors of head, neck, and throat are astonishingly changed periodically! On the head of that bird, a fleshy piece which looks like a cockscomb. But the funny fact is, when it becomes excited, the fleshy piece grows bigger and hangs like a trunk of an elephant. Later it becomes normal. The color around the eyes is always blue and it stays unchanged. But the color of its feathers changes periodically’.


The ridiculous fact is; it was a Turkey hen and in Turkey language, it is called Hind-Tougi. Jahangir saw it for the first time and he was just excited.

 There was another painting probably depicted by Mansur, presently stored in Calcutta Museum. It is a portrait of a bird known as  Bengal florican. The bird is often available in my nearby location. There is the handwriting of Jahangir on that painting in the Persian language. He wrote, - ‘It’s a bird named zurz-e-bur. It was made by Mansur, one of the notable artists in my reign. Noted by Jahangir Akbar Shah. The year 1624’. Unfortunately, I have not found the image of the said painting elsewhere on internet. 

Crane painting.

 The third one was a portrait of a crane. In the genre of bird painting, it is worth taking place in any Japanese painting. The fine smooth brushwork on its feathers, and impeccable knowledge in anatomy, made it outstanding. The portrait is made with artistic intuition and the soul of a scientist having sufficient restraint and patience. But the fact is, the painting does not encumber you for such a fine detailing rather unified substantially with the composition of the painting. Here is the image of that painting at the right side. Click to see in large view.



One of the most notable matters of the Mughal painting is ornamental design on the edge of painting. The ornamental decoration on the frame of the Mughal painting is even more wondrous than the painting, which conveys the taste, artistry, and erudition. It was the trend to decorate the edge alongside the painting with ornamental design, and it reached the highest label of artistry in the reign of Jahangir. A similar notion we could find in Islamic architecture. As an instance, we can take a glimpse of the Taj Mahal where the arch of the porch of the Taj is decorated with Urdu fonts. The traits of both are the same; however, the implementation of such a notion is far better in painting. The ornamental design of flowers and creepers with a bit of color splash, make a softness, and moreover, the choice of color made a beautiful balance with the main painting, which vindicates the artistic taste absolutely. 


Besides that, I think, it is also explicitly proved that all the designs are just conventionalized, and there is no innovative sense to make something exceptional. What do you think? Start writing your thought below. I'll appreciate your opinion. 


Will continue in next episode.


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Last updated on - 25.09.2023