The oldest known Hindu texts date from the second half of the 15th century and relate to the Jain manuscript tradition. Hindu myths and epics were the subjects of these early works, produced in northern India. By the early 16th century, a new style had arisen that illustrated secular as well as religious themes.
In the courts of the pre-Mughal Muslim Sultanates, both the styles and the themes of painting combined the Islamic tradition of Persian painting and an indigenous sensibility.
It was his son, Akbar, who consolidated imperial authority, established a new capital, and became a great patron of the arts. In Akbar’s atelier, approximately one hundred artists recruited from the pre-Mughal centers of painting were trained under the Persian masters. Eventually a new painting style, called Mughal, emerged from this synthesis. Akbar was determined to document his reign in the manuscripts and paintings produced in the imperial atelier. The result was new painting conventions to record a new reality—Mughal rule. European prints and paintings that came to the court gave artists the opportunity to study Western artistic devices and incorporate what they deemed appropriate. The introduction of portraiture was, perhaps, the most significant contribution to Indian art made during Akbar’s reign.
Akbar’s son and grandson continued to patronize court painting, but his great grandson Aurangzeb was determined to enforce Muslim orthodoxy. Artists left the royal painting atelier to find new patronage in the Rajput courts of the Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills.
Paintings Were Viewed
At this point, the painting was usually burnished by being placed face down on a smooth slab of stone. The back of the paper was rubbed with a smooth stone, inset into a wooden holder. Burnishing was repeated frequently during the painting process. The practice of burnishing gave a smooth surface to the painting. Near the end of the process, the painted side might be rubbed using a smaller burnisher to produce local glossy areas.
Further layers of paint were added to the ground with artists working from larger to smaller areas of color and from more diffuse to more detail. The final areas were often the more important compositional elements, like human figures, or the lions and tigers of the hunting scenes. Towards the end of the process, final outlining, usually in black, of the design elements was done.
Recent research into the types of pigments has uncovered the following information. Several types of whites were used, all metallic and including lead white (found in the majority of paintings), tin white, and zinc white. Lampblack was the only black identified. Brilliant yellow, called Indian yellow (a calcium or magnesium salt of euzanthic acid), was an organic extract from cow urine. Vegetable dyestuff indigo was the most common blue. Natural ultramarine (the mineral lazarite) was also used. Vermilion (mercuric sulphide) and red lead were the most common reds. Many greens were used. The most common was verdigris, copper chloride produced by the reaction of copper metal with salt water. Metallic pigments were also used, including gold in painted powder form and a tin metal that was silver in color. Binders, the solution into which pigments are mixed so that they might be spread, were gums—gum arabic and gum tragacanth.
of the Works
Paintings were available to the ruler and his court and, as they recorded geography, history, animals, as well as many other subjects, served as an invaluable educational resource.
Apprenticeship to a master artist began at a young age. Court workshops housed the artists. Artists’ wages were about equal to those of soldiers and they might receive a bonus for an outstanding work. Artists traveled with the rulers to war, hunts, and local festivals.
| Slideshow | Looking
at Art | Lesson Plans |