Art Culture and Empire
British Library Publishing Division | ISBN 9780712358712
Paperback – 256 pages
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One of the most powerful and exotic of all the world's great dynasties, the Mughals ruled India from 1526 to 1858. During this time they produced an astonishing number of rulers of outstanding ability, who operated in a hugely diverse and complex religious, linguistic and social environment. The Mughals were great patrons of the arts, using them to underpin their political position and leaving behind a particularly rich legacy of visual art. This book showcases the British Library's extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings that were commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life. The exquisitely decorated works span four centuries, from the foundation of the Mughal dynasty by Babur in the sixteenth century, through the heights of the empire and the 'Great' Mughal emperors of the seventeenth century, into the decline and eventual collapse in the nineteenth century. The lavish artworks cover a variety of subject matter, from scenes of courtly life including lively hunting parties and formal portraits of emperors to illustrations of works of literature which manage to convey complex storylines in a single image, and dramatic panoramas of Indian landscapes. The development of a Mughal style of art can be traced through the illustrations and paintings, as can the influence of European styles, originally as imported exotica. Many of these works have never before been published, and combined here with the engaging narrative of two subject experts who place each image within its historical and art historical context they serve to provide us with a beautiful and illuminating view of the art and culture of Mughal India.