The Art of Mughal India

The Art of Mughal India

The Art of Mughal India

The Art of Mughal India

Excerpt

The Mughal dynasty in India began and ended with poets; and the intervening emperors were, with few exceptions, among the world's most aesthetically minded rulers. Within the span of a few decades they evolved an art style that pervaded every man-made thing from great cities to the tiniest jade pins used for tying turbans. It was an art that seldom strayed far from nature. The emperors doted on flowers and animals, and these were made the subject of their poetic imagery, as in a crystal box shaped like a mango, or a jade cup that changes in form from flower into goat.

The kings were romantics to the last, always reaching for the unattainable. Babur, the poet-conqueror, was possessed with the dream of an empire worthy of his ancestral glories. A utopian India for Hindus and Moslems alike was Akbar's idealistic obsession. And Aurangzeb, who nearly killed the empire with his quixotic ideals, was slave to a mania for conquest of the Deccan.

The emperors' varying moods found expression at the hands of their artists and craftsmen, who gave tangible form to their flights of fancy. Mughal miniatures abound in the picturesque, the remote, and the unknown, which were sought in Akbar's fantastic Hamza-nama,larger than any other illustrated book in Islamic tradition and charged with wonder; in Jahangir the World-seizer's condensed, super-naturalistic world of picture-albums; and in Shah Jahan's airless but wish-fulfilling state images-- all of which are impassioned projections of the romantic spirit.

Although Turkish and Persian in background, the Mughals were not Muslim rulers of India but Indian rulers who happened to be Muslims. During its greatest phase, from the mid-sixteenth century through the . . .

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