Mughal Paintings – Journey from Birth to Death

Painting by Mir Seyyed Ali (1510–1572)
Painting by Mir Seyyed Ali (1510–1572)

Mughal paintings have always caught the attention of art lovers because of its perfect blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic Styles. These paintings developed during the rule of the Mughals in India, around the 16th – 19th century.

Mughal Paintings originated during the rule of Humayun, especially when he brought two Persian artists Mir-Sayyid Ali and Abd-us-samad to India. Gradually, their style got influenced and gave birth to the Mughal style of painting which was a confluence of so many cultures.

The themes of the paintings were mostly around hunting, wildlife, portraits and royal scenes like courtrooms etc. Many other emperors like Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan were instrumental in developing Mughal paintings to its peak.

During the time of Emperor Akbar, hundreds of artists were encouraged to paint under the direction of the two Persian Artists. Since Akbar was very fond of the mythological tales, he encouraged paintings of Mahahabarat, Ramayan and many Persian Epics.

However, during the rule of Jehangir, the paintings took a turn towards the theme of portraits, flowers, birds and events from Jehangir’s life itself. One of the best examples of this kind was in the Jehangir-nama, the biography of Empror Jehangir.

During the rule of Shah Jahan and later Aurangazeb, the paintings took a more rigid and cold form. The themes were mainly of gardens, terraces etc. But the Mughal paintings slowly saw a decline in interest and support from the emperors who followed. By the time Emperor Shah Alam II came to power, Mughal paintings were almost extinct paving way to a new school of art – Rajput paintings.

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  1. There are no descriptions about Babur’s physical appearance, except from the paintings in the translation of the Baburnama prepared during the reign of Akbar .

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