Legends of Mughal court

Mīr Sayyid ʿAli, (flourished 16th century, India), Persian miniaturist who, together with his fellow countryman ʿAbd-uṣ-Ṣamad, emigrated to India and helped to found the Mughal school of painting (see Mughal painting).

He was born probably in the second quarter of the 16th century in Tabrīz, the son of a well-known artist of the Ṣafavid school, Mīr Muṣawwir of Solṭānīyeh. He went to India at the invitation of the Mughal emperor Humāyūn, arriving first in Kābul about 1545 and from there going on to Delhi. He and ʿAbd-uṣ-Ṣamad instructed the artists of the imperial atelier, most of them Indians, and superintended the production of the giant “miniatures” illustrating the Dāstān-e Amīr amzeh (“Stories of Amīr Ḥamzeh”), a colossal undertaking that consisted of some 1,400 paintings, each of unusually large size. The few of his paintings that have survived were for the most part painted before his arrival in India. They are sufficient, however, to denote him as a highly gifted painter, wielding an unusually delicate brush and possessed of great powers of observation.

Abū al-asan, (flourished 17th century, Delhi [India]), one of the leading Mughal painters of the emperor Jahāngīr’s atelier, honoured by the emperor with the title Nādir al-Zamān (“Wonder of the Age”).

Abū al-Ḥasan was the son of Āqā Rezā of Herāt, who worked with Jahāngīr (reigned 1605–27) before his accession to the throne. Abū al-Ḥasan was trained in painting under the careful tutelage of the emperor, who praised him as having “no rival or equal” and took pride in having personally formed him at his court. Paintings of Abū al-Ḥasan’s that have survived include the famous chinar tree with squirrels, in the India Office Library, and a large number of superb portraits. His study of European prints may have reinforced his naturalism and sympathy for his subjects. He is known to have worked early in the reign of Shah Jahān (1628–1657/58).

Daulat, (flourished 16th–17th century, India), an important Mughal painter who worked during the reigns of both the emperors Akbar and Jahāngīr and painted under Shah Jahān as well.

Born into the imperial service, presumably the son of a painter, Daulat was an unusually skilled portraitist. He is responsible for recording his own likeness and the portraits of several other Mughal artists on the margins of an album now in the Royal Library of the Golestān Palace, Tehrān. His portrait also appears along with that of the scribe ʿAbd al-Raḥīm in the Dyson Perrins copy of the Khamseh Neāmī of 1596, now in the British Museum, an honour paid the two by the emperor Jahāngīr. Splendid paintings were executed by him in the Akbar-nāmeh (“History of Akbar”; in the Chester Beatty Collection) and the Bābur-nāmeh (“Memoirs of Bābur”; in the National Museum of India). He was also skillful in gold illumination, and many examples of his work can be seen in the albums assembled for Jahāngīr.

Dasvant, (flourished 16th century, India), a leading Indian Mughal artist, cited by Abu al-Faḍl ʿAllāmī, the historiographer of the emperor Akbar’s court, as having surpassed all painters to become “the first master of the age.”

Little is known of his life, though it is conjectured that he was a Hindu, probably of humble origin. He came to the attention of Akbar, who personally placed him under the tutelage of the Persian master Khwāja ʿAbd al-Ṣamad. Only a few miniatures bearing his name have survived, the large majority of them illustrating the Jaipur Razm-nāmeh (the Persian name for the Indian epic the Mahabharata). These works were designed by Dasvant but painted by his associates. A miniature in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s manuscript copy of the ūī-nāmeh (“Parrot Book”) is the only painting on which he worked alone. Even the little that has survived is sufficient to justify his reputation. Of unstable mind, he killed himself in a fit of madness.

Khwāja ʿAbd-uamad, (born 16th century), Persian painter who, together with Mīr Sayyid ʿAlī, was one of the first members of the imperial atelier in India and is thus credited with playing a strong part in the foundation of the Mughal school of miniature painting (see Mughal painting).

ʿAbd-uṣ-Ṣamad was born into a family of good social standing in Iran, and he had already gained a reputation as a calligrapher as well as a painter when he met the Mughal emperor Humāyūn, who was in exile in Iran. At Humāyūn’s invitation, he followed him to India in 1548, first to Kābul and later to Delhi. He instructed both Humāyūn and his young son, the future emperor Akbar, in drawing. Among his students while he was superintendent of Akbar’s atelier were Dasvant and Basāvan, Hindus who became two of the most renowned Mughal painters. ʿAbd-uṣ-Ṣamad received many honours from Akbar. In 1576 he was appointed master of the mint, and in 1584 at the end of his career he was made dewan (revenue commissioner) of Multān.

Among ʿAbd-uṣ-Ṣamad’s greatest achievements was the supervision, together with his fellow Persian Mīr Sayyid ʿAlī, of a large part of the illustrations of the Dāstān-e (“Stories of”) Amīr amzeh, a series that numbered about 1,400 paintings, all of unusually large size. As none of the paintings is signed, it is not certain whether he himself did any of them. Among the miniatures bearing his signature is one in the Royal Library in the Golestān Palace, Tehrān, depicting Akbar presenting a miniature to his father, Humāyūn. The work, though Persian in its treatment of many details, hints of the Indian style to come, evident in the realistic presentation of the life of the court. A more thoroughly Indianized version of ʿAbd-uṣ-Ṣamad’s painting style is found in an illustrated manuscript of the Khamseh of Neẓāmī dated 1595, now part of the collection of the British Museum.

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