Mughal Painting- Contribution of the Mughals in the field of painting

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QuestionDescribing the contribution of the Mughals in the field of painting, prove that the Mughal style is an amalgamation of the Indian and Persian styles.20 September 2021


Mughal painting is a rich amalgamation of various indigenous traditions and foreign influences. The Mughal style of painting originated during the reign of Akbar, and developed under the patronage of later Mughal rulers.

Salient Features of Mughal Painting in India

  • Textual Illustrations: Although the art of textual illustration was prevalent in the past, it received a new form during the Mughal reign. Fine and subtle drawing, usually with calligraphic textual details on the border, was one of the main features of Mughal painting.
  • Miniatures: The most important forms of art in this period were book ornaments or personal miniatures, replacing murals.
  • Main subjects of painting: In addition to the Persian books of fables, themes from the Mahabharata were also chosen. Indian scenes and landscapes came into vogue. The paintings often dealt with themes such as war, mythology, hunting scenes, wildlife, royal lifestyle. Painting was also a medium for narrating the narratives of the Mughal emperors.
  • Aestheticism: In Mughal art, more emphasis was placed on aesthetic values than on socio-political issues.
  • Techniques: Farsightedness techniques were used to make objects appear closer and smaller than their actual position.
  • Identification of painters: For the first time the names of painters were recorded in the records.

The Mughal rulers patronized Persian artists and employed a large number of local painters under the supervision of Persian artists. Thus the development of the Mughal style resulted from a proper synthesis of the indigenous Indian style of painting and the Safavid style of Persian painting. This can be clarified as follows:

Persian Elements of Mughal Painting:

  • The miniature style of Mughal painting was actually an extension of the Persian miniature.
  • Mughal painting depicts themes related to fables from Persian literature. It features short stories with animal characters that offer moral lessons.
  • Due to the influence of Persian painting, blue and gold colors have been used like peacock in Mughal painting.
  • The use of elaborate calligraphy on the border of the paintings also shows Persian painting influence. These words were often engraved in Persian.
  • The highly ornate borders and method of painting used in the Persian style, which made the scene appear as if the scene was being viewed from a higher point (elevated point of view), continued in Mughal painting.

Indian Elements in Mughal Painting:

  • Mughal paintings became more realistic than Persian paintings due to Indian influence.
  • Indian influence resulted in the inclusion of natural elements such as paintings and animals in Mughal painting. Many of Jahangir’s paintings have detailed depictions of birds, animals and flowers in a realistic manner.
  • Additionally, the depiction of Hindu deities in Mughal paintings shows local influence.
  • Similarly, the themes and stories used in Tutinama were taken from the 12th century Sanskrit story collection ‘Shukasaptati’.
  • The flat effect of the Persian style was replaced by the roundness of the Indian brush, giving the paintings a three-dimensional (3D) effect.

Mughal painters also incorporated European styles such as the use of oil paints in their paintings. However, later rulers like Aurangzeb did not patronize the art, due to which the painters migrated to the neighboring provinces and eventually the decline of Mughal painting began.

So we can say that the Mughals made a special contribution in the field of painting. He started such a vibrant tradition of painting which continued for a long time in different parts of the country even after the demise of the Mughals.

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