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The History of Indian Mughal Miniature Painting

Updated: Mar 30

Part - 6

Part 5 of The History of Indian Mughal Miniature Painting is about to conclude the discussion. We will experience how the sunshine of Indian miniature has dimmed and how the flamboyance of the Mughal period has faded. It's indeed a painful chapter.

At the age of 87, the emperor Aurangzeb expired. The second son of the emperor, Bahadur Shah, got the throne. But when Bahadur Shah died in 1712, his nephew Farrukhsiyar seized hold of the throne by debarring the son of Bahadur Shah, known as Jahandar. From 1713 to 1719, Farrukhsiyar was the emperor of the Mughal kingdom, but during that short time, no development or improvement occurred in the Mughal miniature painting. Nevertheless, we found some portraits of Farrukhsiyar, meaning the attentiveness in painting had been reverted to the emperor. But it was not so significant. Here is a picture of Farrukhsiyar - 

Portrait of Farrukhsiyar  ca. 1720
Portrait of Farrukhsiyar ca. 1720

 In 1719, when Farrukhsiyar lost his throne and the Mughal kingdom had some dilemmas a few times, Muhammad Shah got the throne as the next emperor. In the reign of Muhammad Shah, Mughal miniature painting revived somewhat once again. Although the royal studio got shorter, the Mughal royal trait in miniature painting reverted again. But the misery never left behind. In 1735, Nadir Shah attacked India and conquered Delhi, robbing precious paintings, illustrated manuscripts, the Mayur (Peacock) Throne, invaluable ornaments, and much more. It caused the interruption in painting again. 

Nevertheless, a few more paintings exist to demonstrate the glorious part of Mughal culture. One was an album titled Karnama-e-Ishq, containing 37 miniature paintings by Govardhan. Later, it was included in the Jonson collection. At that time, Govardhan was the leader of the royal studio, and under his supervision, some miniature paintings were composed. 

In 1724, Muhammad Shah appointed Saadat Khan governor of Ayodhya, and from that time, the Mughal Emperor's supremacy decreased, and the Nawab's influence extended. But still, the royal fashion of portrait painting was ongoing, and some famous painters were working in the royal studio. One of those was Roy Anup, who was a leading figure. Others were Thakur Rao Gaj Singh, Chitraman, etc.

Example of 18th century miniature in provincial Mughal style of Bengal
Example of 18th century miniature in provincial Mughal style of Bengal

After the death of Muhammad Shah in 1748, the appointment of new artists in the royal court was stopped. Most artists were spread elsewhere out of Delhi to carry out their occupation at this time. In the meantime, some great artists of the royal court got jobs and went away to Faizabad, Lucknow, and Ayodhya. From a resource, I got a historical incident where a letter was sent to an envoy of Maratha to the royal court of Delhi requesting to find artists who could paint some Hindu deity. The Mughal envoy replied, 'No good Hindu artists are here in Delhi now. Poor conditions and unavailability of work caused artists to be left away from Delhi. You can find artists in Lucknow or any other locations.'  Such an incident proves that miniature paintings claimed as Delhi Kalam, composed from 1748 to 1806, were made outside the Delhi royal Mughal court. Therefore, those are not the real Delhi-Kalam. We could find some portraits, landscapes, and illustrations from that time, which are indeed wonderful. Versatility in subject matter is the main noticeable thing of this era. It indicates that the artists of that era were engaged to satisfy their appreciators by providing several whimsical demands. Here is a demonstration of the 18th-century provincial Mughal miniature style of Bengal that widely proves the same historical incident. You can understand the difference between the Delhi Kalam and the provincial Mughal style.

 Very few royal artists of the emperor, the second Akbar Shah and the second Bahadur Shah, had been continuing in the royal court from 1806 to 1858, but the paintings of very few numbers were composed. It explicitly indicates the lack of appreciation, and after the death of the second Bahadur Shah, it stopped permanently. 

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