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Indian Miniatures


Indian miniature paintings date back to the 10th century. The arrival of the Moghuls in the 16th century placed the Indian miniatures in a prized category as the repertoire expanded to subjects such as portraits of nobility, mythology, plush court scenes, hunting expeditions, religious subjects, flowers and animals. The four main schools and courts of miniature paintings were: Moghul, Pahari of the Punjab hills (Kangra, Guler, and Basholi), Rajasthan (Jaipur, Mewar, and Kishanger), and Deccan. Indian miniatures have a lyrical quality that captures the mind and soul. They are small in size but meticulous in detail with finely delicate brushwork and many in the Fozdar Collection have gold incorporated in the paintings.

1. Moghul

During the Moghul Empire (16th-19th centuries), miniature paintings were a blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. Initially the Persian style of miniature paintings had a dominant influence on Moghul paintings. The Moghul kings and nobility were often accompanied by their court artists on their travels, hunting and military expeditions, acts of bravery, marriage or important ceremonies, and for other purposes when they wanted a visual record of the events. In an age where photography did not exist, the miniatures performed this role and were often kept in albums or books.  Moghul Emperors such as Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb encouraged the flourishing of miniature paintings and were patrons of this special art category.  Emphasis was placed on court life and Moghul power. The paintings showed the opulence and grandeur of Moghul royalty. Jahangir inaugurated the court portrait: realistic and standing or seated, in profile, on a plain background. This style continued under the reign of Shah Jahan. The miniatures were painted on cloth, paper, and even on ivory and often included gold in the works. There are 2 Persian paintings and 3 Moghul paintings in the Fozdar Collection. They include the first miniature (Jamshid with Zabulistan Princess mid-16th century) bought by Mr Jamshed Fozdar and thus began his pursuit of Indian miniatures

2. Pahari

The Pahari School refers to the art of the hilly region watered by the five waters of Punjab. The palette of the Pahari miniature artists was extensive and ranged from full-bodied red, blue, green, yellow, to delicate pastel shades. The more delicate shades are only seen in Kangra paintings, which were patronized by the Rajput rulers from 17th to 19th centuries.  Kangra art is precise, fluid, and lyrical. The faces of the subjects being painted are almost porcelain-like, with fine detail and embellishment.  

The Fozdar Collection includes several Pahari paintings such as late 18th century Kangra paintings of “Brahmin Shankaracharya” and “Krishna with Boar Incarnation of Vishnu”. The artists used crushed pearls, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds to add a lustre and richness to these paintings. This collection includes “Sikh Chieftain and Retinue” and “Rana of Udaipur” which are finely painted in the Kangra style incorporating gold and crushed pearls.

The Pahari paintings also include a set of 7 paintings on The Ramayana, and a set of 6 paintings on The Bhagavad Purana; both sets are from early 19th century.

3. Rajasthan

As the Moghuls had ruled most of the princely states of Rajasthan, miniature paintings here originated from the royal states of Rajasthan but gradually local characteristics distinguished them into separate schools. Rajput painting can be divided into 2 broad styles: Rajasthani from the Rajput courts of Rajasthan; and Pahari from the Rajput courts of the Himalayan foothills. As with the Pahari School, Rajasthani paintings focused on the epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna, people, and landscapes. The other similarity with the Pahari School was the composition of colours, which was derived from plants, minerals, shells, pearls, precious stones, and the use of gold in the paintings. In the Fozdar Collection is a tiny painting “Krishna as Srinathji being worshipped” from Nathadwara in Rajasthan, mid-19th century. The very fine details in this painting are quite wondrous. Colours were used for visual articulation.

4. Deccan

Deccani miniature paintings, especially from Golkonda and Hyderabad, reflect the art, costumes, facial features, and linguistics of their region.  The Islamic idiom was gradually replaced by the indigenous. However, after the reign of Aurangzeb in the early 18th century, many artists of the Moghul court moved to Hyderabad leading to a further synthesis of the Deccan style. The Fozdar collection includes 2 paintings from the Deccan School.

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