India’s Mughal era artistic legacy on display in US

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : An exhibition showcasing the remarkable artistic legacy of India’s Mughal era opens here Saturday at the Freer/Sackler galleries, which own one of the world’s greatest collections of these works.

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Titled “Worlds within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran”, the exhibition would display through Sep 16, 50 of the finest folios and paintings made for Persian rulers and the Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan.

The exhibition is also accompanied by the book “The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court”, by Milo Cleveland Beach, pre-eminent Mughal art historian and former director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art.

Opening of the exhibition will be marked by a day-long festival called “Inspired by India: A Family Celebration” Aug 11.

This free event, which coincides with India’s Independence Day on Aug 15, features traditional music and dance performances, storytelling, art projects, curator-led tours, food, and culminates in a rare screening of classical Bollywood film “Mughal-e-Azam”.

The exhibition’s title, “Worlds within Worlds”, refers to the complex layering of multiple images within single folios, their many references to Persian and European styles and subjects and the emperors’ sense of self as world rulers, according to the gallery.

The greatest Mughal works on paper are intriguing amalgams of portraits, symbols of sovereignty, illuminated borders and calligraphy that announce a distinctive imperial sense of self and dynasty.

The second section focuses on the groundbreaking synthesis achieved by Persian emigres and local Indian artists under Emperor Akbar (ruled 1556-1605).

The personal dynamism of Akbar and the Mughal fascination for capturing the appearances of people and places shine throughout these foundational works of the Mughal school.

Highlights include three dreamlike works by the renowned Farrukh Beg that demonstrate how artists with distinctive styles contributed to the broader imperial image.

The exhibition concludes with a selection of superb folios produced for the albums of Jahangir’s son, Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-57).

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])