Mughal aesthetic essence, extending from architecture to mural painting, is quite unified. This is what forces many a historian or archaeologist to say the gardens and the paintings of those days appear related. The love of nature as well as the trait of observing greens of the erstwhile Mughals vividly relate to the representation of flowers and gardens in their paintings.
Miniature painting in India meanwhile, had existed in a number of forms since the ninth century, although lacking a cohesive vision. Nevertheless, the fifteenth century saw certain styles beginning to coalesce although it took time until the establishment of the Mughal empire to come into their own.
When Mughal miniatures are taken into account, they refer to a bold blend of vivid colours highly favoured by the painters of India and delicate lines preferred by the painters of Persia. They also boast of a bit of influence from European artists like Albrecht Durer introduced to the subcontinent by Jesuit missionaries.
Mughal miniatures are all about small brightly coloured paintings with high details mostly used as illustrations for art books and manuscripts. Notwithstanding their tiny stature, they are amazingly precise. Some lines in the painting are realised using brushes that come with only a single hair.
These miniature paintings greatly regarded colour and high detail over shading as well as realistic perspective. This aspect of theirs gives the figures a static look, frozen in positions, which emphasise the two-dimensionality of theirs.
It is also important to ponder over the context within which thrived this unique artistry. The Mughals flourished during the 16th and 18th centuries as one of Asia’s most dominant regimes, besed in northern India. The empire spanned most parts of the present day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and by 1700, became the most formidable economic force in the world. Around 25 per cent of the gross domestic product of the world belonged to the Mughals.
The advancement of the Mughals in the segment of arts is well endorsed by the description of the Shalimar Gardens by UNESCO that those gardens figured prominently in the miniature paintings besides speaking volumes about the search of the empire for refinement as well as aesthetic pleasure.
Some highly valuable samples from the Mughal miniature painting collection are ‘Jahangir weighing Prince Khurram Against Gold and Silver (1615), Prince in a Garden gifted with a jungle fowl (1590), Centaurea (1605-27) and A turkey bird brought to Jahangir (1612).