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Moghul Muslim Art - Essay Example

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European visitors to the palaces and tombs of the Mughal Emperors (1526-1707) in the last decades of the 16th and the first decades of the 17th century were astonished to find them prominently adorned with mural paintings depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary and Christian saints executed in the style of the Catholic Late Renaissance…
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Moghul Muslim Art
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Download file to see previous pages Modern scholars have also tended to misinterpret these images, either as a sign of Mughal cultural capitulation to the West, or as a brief and superficial fad for exotica. Both views misunderstand the Emperors' intentions and underestimate their learning and shrewdness. The Mughals consciously appropriated Euro-Christian art as a vehicle for their message of universal supremacy and divinity. Indeed, the Mughal saints' pictures did not simply serve an aesthetic function, but played a vital role in the culture of the Mughal court.2 The Emperors and their artists took on Catholic art because they were intrigued by its affinities with Islamic, Mongol, Hindu, and especially Sufi symbols and themes, and entranced by its realism and spiritual energy. In the foregoing analysis, focusing on Manohar's art, the Western European influence on the Moghul Muslim artistic genre will be highlighted and its implications investigated.
Manohar began his career in the 1580s, but only developed a style truly his own by the 1590s.3 Manohar spent the 80s and early 90s collaborating with his father, Basawan,4 on manuscript illustrations, and also imitated his works in the European style. More so than Basawan, Manohar came to appreciate European paintings and engravings, and by the advent of the third Jesuit mission in 1595 he appears to have succeeded Kesu Das as Akbar's chief specialist in Christian art. He later used his skills in pictorial realism to serve Jahangir as one of his principal portraitists. Manohar's early work, likely produced around 1590, after the court had moved to Lahore (1585), does not yet exhibit the love for crowded scenes and pageantry which characterized his work from the mid-l590s.5 Distinct from his father's style and that of the earlier Moghul painters, is a tendency toward crisp, hard outlines and a more linear treatment of modelling, with less interest in spatial depth.6 His drawings have a very finished, burnished appearance characterised by a reticent elegance.
When comparing Manohar's paintings with those of his father and other earlier Moghul painters such as Kesu Das, one finds that even though their influence is apparent, there are evident differences. Differences, for example, are clear in Manohar's version of Basawan' s Jerusalem drawing, in Tehran.7 Here, Manohar has copied the earlier work [Fig. 62] with extreme precision, and has even worked out the problem of drapery more logically than his father, but it feels colder. The figure on the left, adapted from Basawan's Guimet 3619.J.a., is also given a more solid, finished appearance than its model-the artist has combed her hair and trimmed her weeds.
Another work in a similar vein, although also betraying the influence of Kesu Das, is a high-quality painting in Boston depicting a Basawan-style woman enthroned in a palace interior with an attendant.8 Like many of the scenes of courtly life, this picture places the women in a pavilion reminiscent of Kesu Das' St. Matthew [Fig. 42]. The parted red curtain, shaded in the subtler manner of Manohar, reveals the usual "mystical chapel," complete with altar, chalice, and a censer or vigil light. Typically, Manohar has closed off the landscape with a wall, narrowing the depth of the scene.9 The central ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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