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Real Birds in Imagined Gardens
Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe

  • Kavita Singh

    Accounts of paintings produced during the Mughal dynasty (1526–1857) tend to trace a linear, “evolutionary” path and assert that, as European Renaissance prints reached and influenced Mughal artists, these artists abandoned a Persianate style in favor of a European one. Kavita Singh counters these accounts by demonstrating that Mughal painting did not follow a single arc of stylistic evolution. Instead, during the reigns of the emperors Akbar and Jahangir, Mughal painting underwent repeated cycles of adoption, rejection, and revival of both Persian and European styles. Singh’s subtle and original analysis suggests that the adoption and rejection of these styles was motivated as much by aesthetic interest as by court politics. She contends that Mughal painters were purposely selective in their use of European elements. Stylistic influences from Europe informed some aspects of the paintings, including the depic­tion of clothing and faces, but the symbolism, allusive practices, and overall composition remained inspired by Persian poetic and painterly conventions. Closely exam­ining magnificent paintings from the period, Singh unravels this entangled history of politics and style and proposes new ways to understand the significance of naturalism and stylization in Mughal art.

    Kavita Singhis a professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

    116 pages
    6 x 8 1/4 inches
    36 color illustrations
    ISBN 978-1-60606-518-1

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Getty Research Institute
    Series: Getty Research Institute Council Lecture series


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