The Mughal Paintings
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AkbarAlmost all the Mughal emperors of India between about 1570 and 1750 employed large numbers of Hindu and Muslim painters. These artists at first produced miniatures that were illustrations for the emperor's books. More than 100 painters worked in the palace studio at any given time on scenes for histories, poetry books, books of fables, or biographies of the emperor. The most experienced artists did the line drawings for the illustrations, while the less experienced or less talented artists ground the colours and painted in the scenes.

The Muslim artists used bright colours made from powdered minerals. Hindu painters used colours derived from vegetable or animal products. Mughal artists loved naturalism in these miniatures and tried to make their pictures as realistic as possible. Human and animal portraits became a speciality. But the artists also loved depicting scenes from daily life. After European prints began to arrive in India by ship from the West, Indian painters learned about perspective and three-dimensional effects.

JahangirFrom the start of the 1600's, miniatures by single, named artists became usual, and book illustrations produced by a group of painters working together began to decline. Artists won fame for their specialities. For example, the painter Mansur received an imperial title for his depictions of animals and flowers. Others were known for their portrait work, allegorical pictures (pictures that symbolized a deeper moral meaning), or beautiful illuminated borders. In the 1700's, scenes featuring pretty women at various activities, became fashionable.

Hindu rajahs, who were local rulers under the Mughal emperors, followed the example of the imperial court and commissioned their own miniatures from artists. Many Hindu artists worked at the Mughal courts but also carried new ideas into the provinces under the patronage of the rajahs. Many rajahs commissioned artists to paint portraits of them and pictures of their favourite horses or elephants. Artists also painted hunting scenes--large, lively pictures that sometimes included a hundred or more servants acting as beaters to drive game. Other popular subjects for Hindu pictures were illustrations of literary works. Many featured the god Krishna depicted as a romantic ideal.

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