Early Mughal Miniature Paintings from Two Private Collections Shown at the Fogg Art Museum

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    Early Mughal Miniature Paintings from Two Private Collections Shown at the Fogg ArtMuseumAuthor(s): Stuart C. Welch, Jr.Source: Ars Orientalis, Vol. 3 (1959), pp. 133-146Published by: Freer Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian Institution and Department of the Historyof Art, University of MichiganStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4629103 .Accessed: 15/06/2014 08:34

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  • EARLY MUGHAL MINIATURE PAINTINGS FROM TWO PRI- VATE COLLECTIONS SHOWN AT THE FOGG ART MUSEUM'

    BY STUART C. WELCH, JR.

    A SMALL EXHIBITION OF MUGHAL ART WAS held at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard Uni- versity, during the winter of I956-57. Al- though primarily a display of paintings, a number of carpets were included. The earliest, lent by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was a fragment of a knotted woolen carpet said to have been in the palace of the king of Delhi when Babur (I526-30) stormed it in I 5 29.2 Decorated with a huge arabesque formed of beasts devouring and disgorging one another, it seems almost to presage omi- nous happenings. Dating from the first part of the seventeenth century is the well-known carpet3 in the same material, also from the Boston Museum, showing genre and hunting subjects as well as the Simorgh attacking a gajasimha. Although the design would per- haps be better suited to painting than carpet decoration, this is certainly one of the most exciting of Mughal textiles. Mr. Joseph V. McMullan lent his sumptuous prayer rug of the period of Shah Jahan (I628-58), with its

    1 The author would like to express his thanks to John D. MacDonald, Eric Schroeder of the Fogg Art Museum, Ivan Stchoukine, Ralph Pinder-Wilson and Douglas Barrett of the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum, Jean Watson of the India Office Library, W. G. Archer and B. W. Robinson of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and especially Robert Skelton of the same institution.

    Several paintings, mostly Deccani, are described here although they were not exhibited at the Fogg at this time.

    2 Boston Museum of Fine Arts, No. 04.J697. Another fragment is reproduced by K. Erdmann, Der Orientalische Kniipfteppich, Tiibingen, 1955, Abb. 170.

    3 Boston Museum of Fine Arts, No. 93.I480I; Erdmann, op. cit., Abb. I72.

    hypnotic arrangement of white flowers against a deep red ground.4

    The paintings gave a fuller picture of the development of Mughal style, beginning with two pages from the largest and earliest of Mughal manuscripts, the Ddstdn-e Amir HIamzah. Although neither example could be said to represent the designs of Mir Sayyid 'Ali, the painter who was brought to India by Homayun (I530-56) and who was first re- sponsible for the project, they showed vividly the bold and often naturalistic manner of this phase of Mughal book painting. The period most fully represented was that of Akbar (i556-i 6o0). There were included paintings from several of the historical manuscripts, as well as from the translations of Hindu epics into Persian whereby Akbar hoped to bridge the gap between Hindu and Muslim elements in his empire. A number of miniatures from fable books, poetry, and natural histories com- pleted the documentation of Akbar's library.

    Portraits and album paintings of the Ak- bar period were also displayed, but such ex- traordinary studies as that of a poet5 and The dying Indyat Khdn,6 both lent by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, gave evidence of the advancement of portraiture during the reign of Jahangir ( I605-27). From the same

    4 This rug has since been given to the Metropoli- tan Museum of Art by Mr. McMullan.

    5 A. K. Coomaraswamy, Catalogue of the Indian Collections in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Pt. 6, Cambridge, Mass., I930, pl. 25, No. I4.663. Although of the Jahangir period, this picture is prob- ably the work of the painter of the British Museum, Ibrahim 'Adil Shah, II.

    6 Ibid., pl. 32, No. 14.679.

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  • I34 STUART C. WELCH, JR.

    collection came the subtly composed crowd scene, a Darbar of Jahangir,7 one of the best known of all Mughal objects. The emperor's interest in natural-history subjects was repre- sented by a painting of a ram 8 from the collec- tion of Mr. John D. MacDonald.

    The style of the reign of Shah Jahan was shown by Mr. MacDonald's portrait of Akbar in grisaille with two putti hovering overhead, the latter borrowed from European work. The minutiae of detail of which Mughal painters were capable was perhaps best displayed in a picture of Shah Jahan in old age visiting an ascetic, lent by Eric Schroeder.

    During the second half of the seventeenth century, Mughal painting reached a sort of lapidary perfection that seems lifeless when compared with earlier work. Ironically, if drastically, Awrangzib, the most doctrinaire Muslim of Mughal emperors, brought the cure; he withdrew imperial patronage to such an extent that painters fled to the provincial courts. Forced to conform to different stand- ards, Mughal artists profited from their con- tact with local styles. Hindu subject matter enriched the Mughal repertoire and with it came an intensity of feeling that had been lost to Mughal painting since the Jahangir period.

    Paintings dateable to the reign of Awrang- zib are rare. Mr. MacDonald lent two por- traits of the emperor which are exceptionally attractive if not of the period; one shows him hunting duck at dawn in a marsh, the other on horseback in old age.

    Muhammad Shah's reign (X7I9-48) brought a brief revival of imperial patronage. The portrait 9 lent by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts shows the emperor in an attitude

    7Ibid., pl. 34, No. I4.654. 8 Similar rams are reproduced by Coomaraswamy,

    op. cit., pl. 42, No. I7.3I04, and I. Stchoukine, La peinture indienne a 1'epoque des grands moghols, Paris, I929, p1. 46C.

    " Boston Museum of Fine Arts, No. 26.283.

    typical of a man interested exclusively in the arts of peace: the flaccid ruler, his face re- calling that of a prize bull, is being carried by a great many attendants through his vast gardens in a palankin. Although the era of this emperor is remembered primarily for the disastrous invasion of Nadir Shah, who even sacked the imperial library, it was an impor- tant period in the history of painting. A por- trait of Muhammad Reza Khdn,10 the deputy navvab of Bengal, reveals clearly the influence of the Muhammad Shah imperial style on later Lucknow work.

    Two of the most interesting eighteenth- century pictures were lent by Mr. MacDonald. By Mehr Chand, the eclectic painter of the Lucknow school, these attest the strong in- fluence of Tilly Kettle, one of the first Eng- lish painters to go to India to make his for- tune. One a portrait of Shah 'Alam the Sec- ond (I759-I806), the other of his vazir, Shuja' al-Dawlah (754-75), they are from an album that once belonged to Colonel Polier, the Swiss soldier of fortune, by whom it was given to Lady Coote, presumably the wife of Sir Eyre Coote.11 Also of the eighteenth cen- tury was an illustration to a Hindu story, lent by Eric Schroeder, combining Mughal and Hindu traditions in an unusually poetic fashion.

    None of the paintings on ivory made for tourists in Delhi during the nineteenth century were shown, late painting being represented by two large watercolors of the type commis- sioned by Europeans.'2 One was of a "Gingi Vulture," the other a study of a lotus plant. Such pictures are the last significant vestiges

    10 The author hopes eventually to publish this miniature as well as other later Mughal paintings shown in the Fogg exhibition.

    11 Mildred and W. G. Archer, Indian painting for the British I770-I880, Oxford, I955, pp. 54-55.

    12 Natural-history paintings made for the British are discussed by Mildred and W. G. Archer, ibid.

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  • EARLY MUGHAL MINIATURE PAINTINGS 135

    of the Mughal tradition and, at their best, reveal the Indian painters' unrivaled sympathy for living things.

    CATALOGUE

    i.-A page from the Ddstdn-e Amir lamzah (fig. I) .13 Inscribed Khuirshidchehr, having made the jailers insensible and cut off their heads, befriends Ramid. Hamid was the son of Hamzah, the uncle of the Prophet and hero of the apocryphal tales to which this is one of the I 25-odd surviving illustrations. The face of Hamid has been clumsily repainted and that of the giant slightly retouched. Margins and text on the back have been covered, but fortunately an opening was made for the title of the picture.

    Color is bright: green tile floor, dark-blue rug, brick-colored walls, orange-red, green, and blue costumes. The rocks are blue, gray, and violet.

    'Abd al-Qadir Bada'fini 14 wrote during the reign of Akbar that the Ddstan-e amir Ilamzah had been completed by I582, at which time the illustrations to the Mahab- harata were begun. He added that the project had taken iS years, implying that Akbar, rather than Homayuin, commissioned it in I567. On the other hand, as M. A. Chagha- tai has shown, Molla 'Ala' al-Dawlah Qazvini wrote: "It is now seven years that in com- pliance with the Royal Command of his Im- perial Majesty (Homayuan), Mir Sayyid 'Ali has been busy in the Imperial Library, prepar- ing an illustrated edition of the Assemblies described in the Romance of Amir Hamza.

    13 For the fullest account, see H. Gliick, Die Indischen Miniaturen des Haemzae-Romanes, Wien, I925. A more recent discussion by Basil Gray ap- pears in Painting, The Art of India and Pakistan. Ed. by Sir Leigh Ashton, London, I950, pp. I40-I41.

    14 'Abdu-l-Qadir Baddani, Muntakhabu-t-ta- wdrikh, tr. by W. H. Lowe, Calcutta, I884, vol. 2, P. 329.

    The idea of producing the unique edition is an invention of the radiant genius of his Im- perial Majesty and the Mir is trying to com- plete it with scrupulous care. It is in fact a book the like of which no one has ever seen. . . 15

    There seems little reason to doubt either statement. Molla 'Ala' al-Dawlah Qazvini was writing contemporaneously and would certainly not have invented his remarks. How- ever, Abui al-Fazl, Ferishteh, and the Ma'dthir al-umara agree with Bada'uini that Akbar commissioned the manuscript.16 If one turns to the paintings, the evidence is not con- clusive, for although one or two of them might be attributable to the period when Mir Sayyid 'Ali is said to have been working, most seem to date from the Akbar period. One wonders whether the truth is not that the project was undertaken during the reign of Homayfin and then, after his death, neglected until I567, when Akbar revived it. 68 x Si cm. Circa i58o. Private collection.

    2.-Two pages from a dispersed manuscript of the Wdqi'dt-e Bdburi,17 the Persian transla- tion of his grandfather's memoirs made for Akbar and presented to him in I589. Seven- teen miniatures from the same manuscript are

    15 Fide M. Abdulla Chaghatai, Mir Sayyid A1i Tabrizi, Pakistan Quarterly, vol. 4, No. 4 (Karachi, I954), pp. 25-26.

    16 Vide Rai Krishnadasa, Mughal miniatures, New Delhi, 1955, p. 4.

    17 Gray, op. cit., p. I45. To the list of early illus- trated manuscripts given by Mr. Gray may be added another, formerly in the collection of Peter Stchou- kine, vide S. I. Tyulayev, Indian art in Soviet collec- tions, Moscow, I955, pls. 2-IO. Other detached miniatures are in the collections of Mr. John D. MacDonald and Dr. Leland C. Wyman, of Boston. Pages from the St. John's College, Agra, Manuscript are reproduced by Rai Krishnadasa, op. cit., pls. 2, 3.

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  • I36 STUART C. WELCH, JR.

    in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It seems likely that this is the earli- est illustrated version that has survived.

    The first page (fig. 2) shows Babur re- ceiving the daughters of Sultan Mahmiud Mirza while encamped on the banks of the Oxus.18 The miniature is thinly painted, some of the outline drawing being still visible. Colors are subdued; pale greens, blues, and reds emerge from a tan ground. Faces and gestures are expressive and considerable atten- tion has been given to the problem of showing the recession of space. The figure of Babur is modeled in exactly the fashion one would expect of Basawan,19 who, according to a con- temporary inscription, drew the outline. Dharm Das did the painting. Inscriptions of this sort were probably written when the painters submitted their work to the person in charge of the project.

    A border with floral decorations painted in gold has been added to the miniature which is otherwise in good condition. 23.6 x I3.2 cm. (inside gold margin). Circa I590. Private collection.

    The second miniature (fig. 3) from the same manuscript shows Babur later in life, probably bidding farewell to Fakhr-e Jahan Begam and Khadijah Sultan Begam at the Fort of Agra.20 Pigmentation is heavier and brighter than in the first painting. Babur rides a dapple blue horse and wears a coat deco- rated in gold. As the miniature has been re-

    18 The Babur-nama in English (Memoirs of Babur), tr. by A. S. Beveridge, vol. i, London, 1922, P. 48.

    'g Vide W. Staude, Contribution a l'etude de Basawan, Revue des Arts Asiatiques, t. 8, No. I (I934), and idem, Les artistes de la cour d'Akbar et les illustrations du Dastan i-Amir Hamzah, Arts Asiatiques, t. 2, fasc. i (I955), p. 47.

    20 Beveridge, op. cit., vol. 3, pp. 605-6o6.

    mounted, the text is hidden. Unfortunately, the contemporary attribution was removed. 26.4 x I4.7 cm. Circa I590. Private collection.

    3.-Two miniatures from a dispersed copy of the Divdn-e Shahi..21 The manuscript, although far smaller in page size, belonged to...

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