Mughal Inlay Art

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Item Code: NAF336
Author: R. Nath
Publisher: Indian History and Culture Society
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8124602611
Pages: 116 (Throughout Color and B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 260 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The book studies ‘INLAY’ art as it developed in Mughal Architecture indigenously, from Humayun to shah Jehan (c. 1535 to 1658 AD), landmark examples of which have been illustrated. Mughal inlay is architectural, and it is a misnomer to brand it: ‘pietra-dura’ which was a Florentine picture-art used on wooden furniture.

‘Orpheus Plaques’ which led the colonial historians to trace origin of Mughal inlay to Florence, were imported ready-made and here is no other example of Florentine Pietra-dura. Inlay is the most distinctive characteristic of Mughal Architecture and study of its growth and development, to the elegance of the Taj dados, the chef d’oeu-vre of Indian art, is historicallyas enlightening, as interesting it is artistically.

About the Author

Professor R. Nath (b. 1933 ), M.A., Ph.D., D. Litt, taught History at Agra college and University of Rajasthan Jaipur, from where he retired as Professor and Head of Department of History and Indian Culture. For Almost half a Century, he has studying Indian historical architecture, chiefly Mughal Architecture, on which subject he has authored 55 books, 15 monographs and 179 rescearch-papers, including the multi-volume series: history of Mughal Architecture with his knowledge of Sanskrit and Persion he writes authoritatively. His is, essentially, a study of the Land, the People and the Culture.


The study of the INLAY art as it developed in Mughal Architecture from Humayun to Shah Jehan (c. AD 1535-1658) Indigenously, and independent of any extraneous inspiration or influence, and independent of any extraneous inspiration or influence, landmark examples whereof have been cited with illustrations (64 b and w and 16 colour plates). It is wrong to brand it: pietra-dura or pietre-dure which misnomer was pasted upon it by nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial historians who suffered by a sense of inherent superiority of European culture and art, and who could not believe that the Indian people, whom Macaulay fondly called ‘semi-savage’, could develop such a fine and exquisite art as this, which even the classical Greeks and the Romans, who also worked in marbles, could not do.

The claim that Mughal inlay had a Florentine origin was based on the Orphens Plaques which are the solitary example of Florentine Pietra-dura in Mughal Architecture. As has been discussed in this work, these plaques were imported ready-made and placed in the Throne-Balcony (Jharokha) of the Diwan-i-Am of Red Fort Delhi, between 1707, After the death of Aurangzeb, and 1824, when Bishop Heber saw them there for the first time, and mentioned them in his travelogue.

Florentine pietra-dura had different material, different technique, different motifs and, above all, different background on which it was used. Pietra-dura was a picture-art used on wooden cabinets and other furniture, and it could exist without its background. In contra-distinction, Mughal inlay was exclusively an architectural ornament used on plinths, pavements and water basins; on dados, spandrels or arches and other mural suface; pillars, brackets and lintels; and minars, domes and other architectural members, without which it cannot exist. Mughal inlay is integral to the architectural space it covers, while pietra-dura plaques are, more or less, pictures which can be used independent of any architecture, e.g., on wooden furniture.

INLAY (pachchikri or parchinkari) is the distinctive ornamentation of Mughal Architecture as Glazed-tiling (kashikari) was of Iranian Architecture and Glass-mosaic (shisharkri ) was of Byzantine Architecture. It is also the most distinctive characteristic of the Shahjehanian phase of Mughal Architecture which marks the Zenith of this style. A historical appraisal of the evolutionary process of its growth and development, to the elegance of the Taj dados, aptly called the chef d’oeu-vre of Indian art, is absolutely needed for a thorough understanding and appreciation of its originally and creativeness, over and above the misnomers imposed upon it by European authors.

My thanks are due to my friend Dr. S.P. Gupta for his interest in this work; to Shri Susheel Kumar Mittal of D.K. Print world for its nice design commensurate with the subject.


List of Illustrations9
1The ''Orphesus Plaques'' and the Florentine ''Pietra-dura'' Controversy13
(a)The Orpheus Plaques of Red Fort Delhi13
(b)Their Material, Ground and Motifs17
( c )Technique of Inlay and Music19
(d)Orpheus Plaques' were imported ready-made
2Evolution on Inlay Art in Mughal Architecture32
Mughal Forms: Exotic or Indigenous109
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