The Mughals were a Muslim dynasty of Turkic-Mongol origin that ruled most of northern India from the early 16th to the mid-18th century, after which it continued to exist as a considerably reduced entity until the mid-19th century. The Mughals built a magnificent empire based on well-founded and enduring institutions, laying the foundations of a dynastic rule which inaugurated the most glorious period in the history of Islam.
As patrons of art and architecture, the Mughals built the most magnificent monuments on the Indian landscape.The Mughal era, particularly the reign of Shah Jahan (r.1628-1658), is considered to be the golden age of architecture, a time when the visual arts were most consistently used as a means of spreading the imperial ideology. Among the prominent structures erected during the reign of Shah Jahan is the world-renowned Taj Mahal, in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The Indian subcontinent also produced some of the finest expressions of Islamic art. A constant mutual exchange between Muslims and non-Muslims resulted in the creation of a unique dimension in the arts. The close relationship between the artists and craftsmen in developing new designs was a feature of Mughal art that was facilitated by the development of workshops within the Imperial palaces. While it is difficult to establish the origin of Indian designs for objects produced in the sixteenth century, the Mughal style became clearly defined during the reign of Jahangir (r.1605-1627), Akbar’s successor. The flowering plant motif, which characterized Mughal arts, began to be defined and reached its peak under Shah Jahan. The motif continued to dominate the textile design until the eighteenth century.
Among the Aga Khan Museum’s collection from the Mughal period is this painting titled An Aged Pilgrim dated ca. 1618-20, India (from Late Prince Sadruddin’s collection). A pilgrim, who is bent with age but spiritually enlightened, inspires a beautiful pink blossom, a sign of renewal, to turn toward him and his inner light. This painting was completed by Abu’l Hasan,a prominent painter in the service of Jahangir. Abu’l Hasan, was part of the younger generation of Jahangir’s artists – men who developed a new style which incorporated European techniques of shading and volume. More >>
Philippa Vaughan, “Indian Subcontinent: from Sultanate to Mughal Empire,” Islam: Art and Architecture Edited by Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius. Konemann. Cologne, 2000
Research by Nimira Dewji
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