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Moghul Art

Courtesy of Dr Shuja

Moghul Art: Miniatures

Turks and the Afghans under Babar in 1526 descendant of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan built up the Mogul empire which survived till 1837. They ruled from horse back what they had conquered from horse back. Till may 1529 the rule of Babar extended from the river Oxus to Bengal and from the Northern Deccan to the Himalayas. The great Mogul was a Turk by nationality, a Moslem by religion, a Persian by culture and nomad from heart. Babur was succeeded by Humayun and the greatest of the Moghul emperor Akber. 

The Taj MahalMoghul art and Architecture reached its height under Akber's son Jahangir and later under his grand son Shah Jahan. They left a legacy of magnificent mosques, palaces, forts and gardens embellished with luxurious but delicate decorations. The Taj Mahal, a masterpiece of Moghul architecture is rightly regarded as one of the most well known wonder of the world.

The Mughal emperors introduced their own style of miniature paintings with Persian inspiration. Court scenes were depicted in grandeur. The background was usually hilly landscapes. Flowers & animals were also vastly depicted & in these the Indian artists applied their own skill to develop on the Persian ideas.

The miniatures, as the name indicates were small works, which were made on perishable material & hence no definite proof of their birth & development can be traced.

Mughal paintings were a unique blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles that flourished in India during the reign of the Mughal emperors from the 16th to 18th centuries. It was exclusively a court art and its developments depended to a large extent on the patron and his enthusiasm. Traditional Persian themes - battles, court scenes, receptions and legendary stories were richly captured with infinite detail by a team of artists.

Mughal painting began during the reign of emperor Humayun (1530-40). Returning from exile, Humayun brought with him two Persian artists to India, Mir-Sayyid Ali and Abd-us-samad. The earliest work that comes under the category of Mughal painting is "The princess of the House of Timur". A painting that has been repainted throughout the Mughal era at the command of various emperors.

The greatest of the Mughal emperors, Akbar (1556-1605), ruled over a vast Indian empire and was its greatest patron of arts. He encouraged poets, scholars, and painters, making his court a centre of culture. During his reign, about a hundred artists worked under the guidance of the two Persian artists. Akbar had a childlike love for tales and this is reflected in what he commissioned his artists to paint. The Mahabaratha, Ramayana and other Persian epics were illustrated. Mughal paintings were lively and realistic and showed increasing naturalism with illustrated animal fables, detailed landscape backgrounds and elements of individual portraiture.

The emperor Jahangir (1605-27) showed a strong patronage for paintings. During his reign, Mughal art became more refined with finer brushwork and lighter colours. He favoured paintings of events from his own life, and encouraged portraits and studies of birds, flowers and animals.The elegance and richness of the Jahangir period style continued during the reign of Shah Jahan (1628-58) but with an increasing tendency to become cold and rigid. Genre scenes - such as musical parties, lovers on a terrace, or ascetics gathered around a fire - became frequent, and the trend continued in the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707).

Despite a brief revival during the reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-48), Mughal painting continued to decline, and the creative activity ceased during the reign of Shah Alam II (1759-1806).

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Last Updated Friday, 29 January 2010