Merry Christmas!

Here’s wishing all of you a very happy Christmas, and much joy, good health, and prosperity over the year to come.

Painted by Akbar's court painter Basawan, this Madonna and Child is from the Jahangir album.

Painted by Akbar’s court painter Basawan, this Madonna and Child is from the Jahangir album.

And, just in case you were wondering: this painting is a Mughal one. It’s by the very accomplished Basawan (who is believed to have been active between CE 1580 and 1600). Basawan was a court painter for Akbar, and continued to work during Jahangir’s reign.

This painting, of the Madonna and Child, was part of the Jahangir album. It is an interesting hybrid of Mughal miniature and European art. The pavilion depicted is very Mughal in style, as is the gold-patterned carpet on which Mary and Jesus lie. The clothing and curtains, richly textured and unpatterned, are very similar, however, to those seen in medieval European art. Other little details, like the candlestand, also indicate the influence of European art.

Basawan was one of the first painters of the Mughal court to be influenced by European art; in later years, more of this influence was to be seen in Mughal art. Christian-themed paintings, like one of Jesus being presented at the Temple, or the visit of Elizabeth and John to Mary and Jesus, were among the most prominent examples. Here, from the collection at Delhi’s National Museum, is another example of the ‘Madonna and Child’ theme. This painting is from the late 18th century, during the reign of Mohammad Shah ‘Rangeela’.

An 18th century Mughal miniature, from during the reign of Mohammad Shah 'Rangeela', of the Madonna and Child.

An 18th century Mughal miniature, from during the reign of Mohammad Shah ‘Rangeela’, of the Madonna and Child.

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4 thoughts on “Merry Christmas!

  1. Hey Madhulika, Merry Christmas!. Learnt something new today. It is a beautiful painting by miyan Basawan. Thanks for sharing the image as well as the article.
    It is fascinating how cultures were not idyllic isolated splendors as many believe. There was a constant intermingling and appreciation of each other’s faith, art and culture. If not for curiosity in the story of Jesus, and a good chance of getting his work appreciated, why would a court
    painter make this image? The second painting is a much more western influenced painting, possibly as the british influence in India was much stronger by this time and the painter would have got more money for a painting that is more like what the possible patron would have seen back home!
    Thanks once again and keep sharing valuable nuggets of history.
    By the way, medieval Rajasthan was also a big melting pot! Look at not just our architecture, but also our culture, spoken language and even folk heroes!

    • Tarun, thank you for commenting. I really appreciate your taking out the time to do so! I do agree with you about how cultures do not exist (cannot exist?) in isolation. And, I think, in most cases, this intermingling helps enrich a culture. Look at food, for example. If it hadn’t been for Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the Americas, the rest of the world would have remained blissfully unaware of chillies, tomatoes and potatoes. Cuisines across the world would’ve been very different from how we know them!

      By the way, I’m not sure if all these paintings were made for European patrons. In fact, I would think many were actually meant for royalty – for instance, the Basawan Madonna and Child was definitely made for the Baadshah.

      By the way, medieval Rajasthan was also a big melting pot! Look at not just our architecture, but also our culture, spoken language and even folk heroes!

      Okay, I have to admit: I’m not too clued into Rajasthan’s history, but this really intrigues me. Would love to hear more! (by the way, one of my favourite Rajasthan regions is Shekhavati – those havelis have some delightful examples of European influences on Indian art).

  2. Merry Christmas Madhulika! Thank you for these very informative posts – I spent the morning re-reading all three Muzaffar Jung books – and hoping you have the fourth lined up for release soon!

    • I spent the morning re-reading all three Muzaffar Jung books – and hoping you have the fourth lined up for release soon!

      Ah, you have made mine a very merry Christmas indeed, with those words. They warm the cockles of my heart. Thank you so much!

      The fourth book, by the way, has been submitted to my publisher (Hachette India), but I’ve no idea when they’ll finally finish the entire process of editing, typesetting, proofing, printing, etc – it invariably takes a year or so, so I’m guessing the book may be released around the end of 2014.

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