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Two Art Collections Integrated


Meena Bhargava

THE IMPERIAL IMAGE, PAINTINGS FOR THE MUGHAL COURT
By Milo Cleveland Beach
Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2012, pp. 232, Rs. 3900.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 10 October 2013

This book is the revised and expanded edition of the 1981 edition of The Imperial Image by Milo Beach which focused on Freer Gallery collections produced for the Mughal Emperors ruling between 1560 and 1640. Since 1981 much new information has been discovered and published on Mughal painting. Beach, a connoisseur and highly acclaimed critic of Mughal art, presents in the revised edition several new acquisitions in the Freer Gallery of Art and adds many extraordinary and magnificent works that entered the collection with the opening of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 1987. For more than a century, since 1907, when Charles Lang Freer purchased his first set of Mughal paintings and manuscripts, the Freer Gallery of Art and subsequently the Sackler Gallery have expanded the Asian art collections in Washington. Sackler Gallery, before its inauguration, had acquired invaluable Islamic paintings assembled by the French jeweller Henri Vever. The Freer and Sackler Galleries represent unrivalled resources for the study and exhibition of Mughal paintings and are perhaps among the world’s leading institutions for Mughal art. The imperial origin of these paintings has especially fostered research on the relationships between the artists and their patrons. This new revised publication is the first to integrate and bring together the collections of the two Galleries.   The Introduction is an exhaustive and an in-depth evaluation of the Mughal art of the book and an analytical understanding of the contributions of the different Mughal emperors in this sphere. Talking about the invaluable importance of the books that represented wealth, power and intelligence in Mughal India, Beach suggests that they were considered precious objects for the material and time that went into their preparation apart from being coveted spoils of war and ceremonial presentations. They also formed a valuable part of the escheat viz., when the noble died all his possessions passed to the emperor; the latter at his discretion chose to retain what he wished to, the rest was returned to the family. Badaoni in his Munthakabu-t-Tawarikh tells us about Shaikh Faizi’s library that had 4,600 volumes and on his death they were transferred to the King’s library after being catalogued and numbered. Badaoni’s information is an important observation on a major library of a noble as compared to that of Akbar, which comprised 24,000 books at his death in 1605. Such details speak of the literary and artistic tastes of the Mughal aristocracy.   Beach provides valuable information on ...


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