Moghul Muslim Art

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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.


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. ...
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