emperors introduced their own style of painting with Persian inspiration and added new
themes, colours and forms. Court scenes were depicted in grandeur. The background was
usually hilly landscapes. Flowers and animals were also vastly depicted and in these the
Indian artists applied their own skills to develop on the Persian ideas. The Mughal
paintings are characterized by their subtleness and naturalism and often depict historical
events or court life. Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad were the two great artists in the
court of Humayun (1530-1556 AD). These two artists also remained active during Akbar's
reign and Abus Samad earned the nickname "Shirinqalam". Akbar (1556-1605
AD) can be considered as the real founder of the Mughal painting.
Akbar had employed more than hundred painters from
different parts of the country and lavishly conferred honours on works of great
excellence. He had special admiration for the work of Hindu artists, notably Daswanth and
Basawan. Mughal painting was a cooperative work in which numerous artists and craftsmen
Several noteworthy works were
completed during Akbar's period, which include the illustrated stories of
illustrated Mahabharata called
Razm-Nama and the illustrated
and Timur nama,
Babur nama and
contained 169 paintings and was completed in 1589 AD. The paintings of the
are unsurpassed for their meticulous finish, their bold execution and their use of colour.
early 17th Century, the Mughal painting had come under the Western influence in such
devices as the use of light and shade to capture space and volume, aerial perspective and
the use of atmospheric effects to indicate spatial recession.
The Jessuit missions to the Mughal courts resulted
in the synthesis of two diverse cultures.
fusion profoundly influenced the Mughal art and constituted one of the most flourishing of
Akbar's leading court
artists -- Kesu Das, Manohar, Basawan and Kesu Khurd -- were fascinated by the Christian
paintings and integrated these themes in their own compositions.
Basawan's Madonna and Child
as Salvator Mundi are one of the masterpieces of that period.
(1605-1627 AD) was the most enthusiastic patron of the Mughal painting. The beauty of
nature, in the form of plants, animals and birds, became an important subject of the
Mughal paintings during Jehangir's time. Jehangir promoted calligraphy, which was
considered to be the foremost art in
the Islamic world. Portrait painting also came into
vogue during this period.
Mansur, Abdul Hasan
and Bishandass were the great painters in the court of Jehangir. Jehangir had bestowed the
title of Nadir-ul-Asr on Mansur. During this period, the influence of Western
painting on the Mughal painters became more pronounced. One of its contributions was the
use of nimbus behind the heads of the Mughal emperors in paintings. This practice, which
was originally adopted by the Mahayana Buddhist artists, was extensively utilised in the
Christian art of the middle Ages, which finally came to the Mughal courts as a result of
the interaction with the West.
reign was a period during which Indian, Persian and European elements underwent a fusion
and emerged into a distinct and novel style. Another important development of Jehangir's
time was the popularity of the albums of paintings.
achieved a new delicacy and romantic flavour during the reign of Shah Jahan.
Love, romance, portraits and
became the common themes. The artists portrayed the romances of Laila-Majnu,
Shirin-Farhad, Kamrup-Kamlata and Baz Bahadur-Rupmati. Elephant fights and men controlling
mast elephants with fireworks and spears are also shown in a number of paintings.
Another common theme with the Mughal artists from the last quarter of the 17th
century and early 18th century is that of a young lady standing under a willow
tree holding a branch.
The chief artists of
Shah Jahan's period were Muhammad Faqirullah Khan, Mir Hashim, Muhammad Nadir,
Bichitr, Chitarman, Anupchchatar, Manohar and Honhar. Aurangazeb's
indifference to painting compelled mainly a great artist to shift their bases to other
kingdoms in Punjab, Rajasthan and other parts of the country, precipitating a decline in
the Mughal painting.
Shah I (1707-1712 AD) tried to restore the court patronage of painting.
The magnificent work of painting,
was produced during his period.
(1713-1718 AD) continued the royal patronage of painting and so did Muhammad Shah Rangila
With the invasion of Nadir
Shah in 1739 AD, the en masse exodus of artists from Delhi began and the Mughal
painting gradually went into oblivion.