Biblical Themes in Mughal Painting – Crossing Cultural Frontiers

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Item Code: NAB762
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Author: S.P. Verma
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788173054129
Pages: 233 (Illustrated B/W & Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch X 9.0 inch
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Book Description
From the Jacket

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 historians.

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 South Asia.

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 University.

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 History (ICHR).

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 co-operation.

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 splendid shape.


Preface vii
Abbreviations xi
Illustrations xvii
1. Introduction 1
A Historical Analysis of Mughal Painting 1
2. Mughals, Jesuits and the Biblical Pictures 23
3. Biblical Themes: The Indian Experience 43
4. Interpretation 67
I. Christian Signs, Symbols and Motifs 67
II. Renaissance Humanism 82
Bibliography 103
Index 127
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