History Optional Paper- 1 Solution – 2000: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) Write a short essay on: “During the reign of Jahangir Mughal painting reached its zenith.”
The foundation of the Mughal school of painting was laid by Humayun during his exile in Persia and Afghanistan. Bihzad, the master painter was at the height of his fame at the time. Humayun patronized many of his disciples, and two of them, Mir Saiyid Ali and Abdus Samad, joined him in Afghanistan, and then moved with him to Delhi.
Akbar was very fond of painting and during his reign, painting was organized as an Imperial establishment or karkhana. The painters’ theme included war, hunting scenes, mythical beings, building activities etc. However, there was little scope for specialization: two or even three painters could be used to complete a picture.
Under Akbar painting was largely confined to the illustration of histories and chronicles.
Akbar also commissioned portrait miniatures but its real development happened during Jahangir.
The Mughal school of painting reached to its climax during Jahangir.
The cause of the progress of painting during the reign of Jahangir
(1) He was very interested in painting. Jahangir established a gallery of painting in his own garden. He also got completed the works taken up by the artists during the time of Akbar.
The Jahangirnama, written during his lifetime, which is an autobiographical account of Jahangir’s reign, has several paintings
(2) He patronized many artists at his court. Ustad Mansur was the great name who was titled as Nadir-u-Asar. Other prominent court artists were Abul Hasan, Bishan Das, Aga Raza etc.
(3) He himself possesed knowledge of painting. Jahangir had a very discriminating eye which could judge the painting. In his biography, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, he claimed to tell the name of the painter after seeing the painting.
Special features of Painting during Jahangir
(1) Influence of European painting
Jahangir was deeply influenced by European painting. During his reign he came into direct contact with the English Crown and was sent gifts of oil paintings, which included portraits of the King and Queen.
Jahangir encouraged his royal atelier to take up the single point perspective favoured by European artists, unlike the flattened multi-layered style used in traditional miniatures.
(2) Emergence of album painting
Narrative painting declined and superceded by album painting i.e. paintings of animals, birds, flowers, portraits, made not as illustrations to book but individual work of art to be mounted in an album.
(3) Properly catalogued painting
Paintings created under Jahangir’s reign were closely catalogued, dated and even signed, providing fairly accurate ideas as to when and in what context many of the pieces were created.
(4) More refined painting
Painting became more refined, smaller in scale, lighter in palette, and more exquisite- intended for connoisseur’s delectation.
Brushwork became finer and the colors lighter.
(5) Portrait painting
Apart from painting hunting, battle and court scenes, under Jahangir special progress was made in portrait painting. He particularly encouraged paintings depicting events of his own life.
(6) Nature painting
Jahangir’s interest in painting also served his interests in nature. The painter Ustad Mansur became one of the best artists to document animals and plants which Jahangir either encountered on his military exhibitions or received from emissaries of other countries.
Though painting reached its climax during Jahangir, it still had shortcomings:
(1) Despite very lively studies of animals and birds, the Mughal painters had little interest in the study of nature independently.
(2) Lives of common men were not accepted as mediums to depict the painting. The art did not come close to lives of common man and remained limited to emperors and nobles.