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Mughal Painting: Power and Piety

Jul 19 2014 – Jun 21 2015

Asian Art Museum

Foster Galleries

Mughal Painting: Power and Piety presents works of art produced in India under the Mughals (1526–1857), a dynasty of Turko-Mongol origin whose emperors created the most expansive, dominant, and wealthy Islamic empire in the history of the subcontinent.

Although currently displayed in frames on the wall, the paintings and drawings were initially preserved in two types of books: the illustrated manuscript and the album. Manuscript paintings enlivened and illustrated texts, including chronicles of the reigns of rulers and literary classics. While text and paintings were “read” in tandem in the illustrated manuscript, albums preserved an assortment of independent images that reflected the personal tastes of the collector. Within the album, which can be compared to today’s scrapbook, Mughal rulers and notables assembled their favorite imagery, including portraits of themselves and religious subjects. In many of these portraits, the ruler’s supremacy was expressed through his personal accouterments—daggers, rings, necklaces—crafted from luxurious materials and inlaid with jewels.

Considered together, paintings and objects expressed the power and piety of the Mughal emperors.

Hamza outside the Fortress of Armanus, 1567-82, Mir Sayyid 'ali, Persian, active 16th c., opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, 34 15/16 x 28 3/4in. (88.8 x 73cm), Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Richard E. Fuller, 68.160