Renaissance painting on biblical themes, full of exoticisms and great naturalism, I inspired
Mughal patrons, Akbar (r. 1556- 1605), Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1657) and
their court painters active at Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Lahore and Delhi. Akbar’s drives in search of
truth in religion drew Christianity and its images close to the people of India. It proved to be a
friendly meet between the East and the West and from there emerged a distinct Mughal entity in the
art of India.
The rulers and the artists of the Deccan Sultanates also showed interest in biblical pictures. The
artist’s active at Bijapur and Golconda adapted conventions of Renaissance art and interpreted
European subjects in Indian atmosphere.
A sequence of the biblical themes in Indian art till the rise of Bengal school is suggested to
form another volume.
The present study analyzes the nature and nurture of biblical art in India and its far-reaching
impact on the art of India — an aspect of study too frequently ignored by the Indian art
Dr. Verma meticulously scrutinizes the elements of Renaissance humanism in Indian art and
carefully interprets Christian signs and symbols and their relevance in support of an imperial
ideology of the rulers.
The present volume will interest serious scholars and students of history and culture of medieval
India, the art historians, connoisseurs of art and those interested in the development of art in
The volume in hand, generously illustrated with 147 images in colour and black—and-white, unveils
nearly all facets of the life of Jesus Christ and the works of the great masters of sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries India.
Professor S.P. Verma (b.1942) taught at the Department of History, Aligarh Muslim
Dr. Verma is the author of Art and Material Culture in the Painting of Akbar’s Court (1978);
Mughal Painters and their Work: A Biographical Survey and Comprehensive Catalogue (1994); Mughal
Painter of Flora and Fauna – Ustad Mansur (1994); Painting the Mughal Experience (2005) and
Eighteen Fifty Seven: Revolt and Contemporary Visuals (2007). He ahs edited three volumes of Art
and Culture (1993, 1996 and 2002); Flora and Fauna in Mughal Art (1999) and 1857: An Illustrated
History (2008). Ordinary Life in Mughal India (2011) is his recent work.
In 1986-87, Dr. Verma worked at the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington,
D.C. as a Fulbright Fellow and in 2005-06 at the Aligarh Muslim University as a Senior Fellow in
Dr. Verma, a practicing artist as well, is the recipient of two prestigious awards of the Indian
Academy of Fine Arts, Amritsar (1981) and the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (1982).
Currently, Dr. Verma, an Emeritus Fellow in History at Aligarh Muslim University, is working on
the project ‘Biblical Themes in Indian Art’ and the present volume Crossing Cultural Frontiers:
Biblical Themes in Mughal Painting (2011) is its outcome.
The present work grew out of my presentation, "Humanism in Mughal Painting", to the delegates of
the 63rd session of the Indian History Congress (Presidential Address, Medieval India Section)
held at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar in 2002; and attained the present form during the
tenure of my Emeritus Fellowship (February 2008—February 2010) awarded by the University Grants
Commission, New Delhi. I am thankful for this sanction.
Most of the study of medieval Indian art particularly relate to the interpretation of the subject
and style, and is expanded to the appreciation of art. Its inter-relationship with parallel
cultures is little realized. In its most amicable way, a meeting between the East and the West is
evinced in the relationship of the Mughal emperors (Akbar, r.l556-1605; Jahangir, r.1605—1627)
with the Jesuit missions equipped with the full spectrum of Renaissance culture. It met with the
Mughals’ own renaissance — an atmosphere of experimentation in religion, art and culture — and
ensued a distinguished Indian-Mughal entity, most eminently in art. In Akbar’s India, an artistic
bond between the East and the West procreated a novel art, distinct in Indian art tradition. Great
painters of India mastered Late Renaissance style and adapted its standards in the foremost course
of the Mughal and Deccan schools of painting. The present study sheds light on this aspect, too
frequently ignored by the Indian art-historians. Here, the works of Milo Cleveland Beach, Ebba
Koch and Gauvin Alexander Bailey educate me.
I would like to thank Professor B.L. Bhadani, Chairman, and the entire staff of the Seminar
Library, Department of History, and the Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University for their
Special thanks are due to Professor Shireen Moosvi, Professor Pushpa Prasad, Dr. Ishrat Alam and
Dr. Smriti Prasad for their encouragement and help. Last but not the least, my love to Saman and
Tabish, Fatima and Sana, Astha and Ami, and Pilescu and Nora who always encourage me to focus on
parallels of outlook and cultural exchanges between the two. Special thanks to Mr. Vikas Arya,
Aryan Books International, New Delhi whose unfailing support has imparted the present volume a
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