Indian (Mughal School, 18th Century) – Scene From A Romance

Among the oriental forms of art which are winning a larger place in western museums are the Mughal and Rajput schools of miniature painting. The art of painting was revived in India by the Mughal or Mogul emperors in the 16th century, at first under strong Persian influence. In the more fully developed style of the Mughal school the Persian element has diminished, and a European interest in deep space, modelling and realistic atmosphere—here that of moonlight and torchlight —has taken its place. At the same time the style has come nearer to the native Hindu tradition of line drawing, which was relaxed and flowing although strongly rhythmic. There is less brilliant surface decoration than in the Persian miniature just discussed; more interest in representing human faces, animals, birds and plants.

This picture is characteristic in that human figures and horses are rendered in bright surface colors and gold, only slightly shaded, while the background is of dark, dull landscape greens and browns, deep and shadowy. The result, as in TheEarthly Paradise, is an extreme contrast between the two parts of the picture, amounting to lack of perfect unity. The case is similar also to that of Gentile da Fabriano, who tried to combine the Byzantine and Renaissance styles. Here the inconsistency is lessened by the fact that both figures and background are drawn in highly stylized, non-realistic lines. The background recalls both Chinese and Byzantine landscape (see Fig. 66) in its rhythmic flow of clearly outlined rocky points and crevices, almost flat, and bordered with mossy tufts of foliage equally flat. The shadows are broadly suffused, and do not round out individual objects. The curves of the horses and riders are distinctly continued and repeated in the background, which further integrates the picture as a surface pattern. The technique is precise and sure throughout. This type of art makes no claim to accurate realism, and its slight step in that direction, if preventing a decorative brilliance equal to the Persian, adds the different charm of a delicate, fantastically poetic view of nature.