Organizer and Chair: Surojit M. Gupta, Ball State University
Discussant: Catherine E. B. Asher, University of Minnesota
The arts and craft traditions of Islamic South Asia have won admiration and appreciation throughout the world, and continue to provide stimulus for scholarship and discourse. Although much research exists on the major and minor crafts of the Indian subcontinent, almost no thought has been given to the people who created them. This panel proposes to address a widely neglected aspect of Mughal and Deccani art by focusing on the role and significance of the artisans in the creative expression of imperial grandeur and magnificence.
Through the use of fragmentary contemporary source materials, both documentary and visual, three very different media-lapidary, textile, and painting-are explored by the panelists in an effort to unravel the mysteries of craftsmanship and craft technology. Markel's paper sheds light on gemstone and hardstone craftsmen and production methods involved in Mughal lapidary arts while that of Jain examines the woven silks of Mughal India demonstrating how silk-weaving, like many other crafts of the period, was an important repository of foreign technical and design influences. Ehnbom focuses on painting workshops as vehicles for the transmission of Mughal influence to the Bundi and Mewar schools in Rajasthan, and Littlefield uses the dynamics of text and image in a Deccani manuscript as a method for understanding craftsmanship in painting.
It is hoped that this panel will further our understanding of the role of the artisan, usually considered a nameless personality in Indian history, not only in the process of creation but also in the advancement of technological changes.
Pictorial, Literary, and Technical Evidence for Mughal Lapidary Arts
Stephen A. Markel, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
While agate, carnelian, and certain other hardstones are known to have been carved for ornamental purposes in South Asia since the Indus Valley Civilization in the third millennium B.C.E., and despite the Buddhist tradition of carving rock crystal stupas and amulets that began centuries before the Common Era, it was not until the Mughal period in the 16th through 19th centuries that the technology and practice of the lapidary arts achieved their highest and most extensive development.
As with various other aspects of South Asian art and culture, the advancements in lapidary arts and technology during the Mughal period seem to have been initially due to the emulation of foreign art forms and techniques introduced by craftsmen from the Islamic world and Europe. In order to shed light on the production methods and identity of the artisans involved in the Mughal lapidary arts, this paper will examine pictorial portrayals of lapidaries at work, historical literary accounts mentioning gemstone and hardstone craftsmen, and works of art with technical and inscriptional relevance. This paper will also summarize the research results of a laboratory analysis of jade working techniques undertaken in 1992 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Conservation Center.
The Woven Silks of Mughal India
Rahul Jain, Independent Scholar and Weaver
The textile tradition of India has been justly celebrated for its exquisite, plain-woven cotton fabrics. The production of elaborate, pattern-woven textiles has remained a peripheral activity, serving a select and privileged clientele. The Indian weavers' mastery over cotton required only the most rudimentary of looms and weaving implements and the simplest of weaving techniques, all available locally. Their eventual triumph over pattern-woven fabric, however, depended on the importation from neighboring cultures of the sophisticated technology and know-how associated with silk. Those technical skills were by then already well-entrenched in regions such as China, West and Central Asia, and Europe. By the mid-seventeenth century, however, Indian silk-weavers had made great strides in adapting and refining their metier to serve competently even the most exacting of royal patrons. Indeed, the Mughal era witnessed the production of magnificent silks, as superb in patterning as they were difficult in execution. Mughal silk-weaving was an important repository of foreign technical and design influences. It remains, to date, one of the least explored facets of the Indian textile tradition.
This paper will survey the material evidence that survives from the Mughal period and outline the technological bases of imperial-quality silk-weaving of the time. It will attempt to establish technical links with other Asiatic silk-weaving traditions and compare, among them, the levels of achievement in the craft. It will also present the results of a present-day Indian experiment, being conducted by the author, to reconstruct the technology of certain types of Mughal fabrics.
A Workshop Model for the Transmission of Mughal Influence in Rajasthani Painting
Daniel Ehnbom, University of Virginia
The purpose of this paper is to examine the question of "Mughal influence" in Rajasthani painting and the evidence for painting workshops as vehicles for its transmission. Information on workshops in Rajasthan is scarce, but not entirely absent. I will take two schools-Bundi and Mewar-that demonstrate opposite formative processes in the late sixteenth/early seventeenth centuries, with one emerging directly from the Mughal workshop, the other "resisting" Mughal influence. By the mid-seventeenth century, however, these styles exhibit remarkable similarities, but the confluence of the styles and the significance of Mughal influence on them during the period of c. 1640-1720 has received little scholarly attention. It is my contention that an analysis of Mughal elements in both styles during this period suggests similar modes of transmission of conventions and motifs that are archaistic in the contemporary Mughal milieu. This points in these examples to a generalized Mughal-derived influence (whose ultimate source is Akbar period painting) that probably results less from direct political and diplomatic contact between the imperial court and Rajput states (a typical model) or from presumed retrenchment of artists during the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707) than from workshop contacts that can be inferred from existing evidence.
Word and Image: Process and Production in a Deccani Manuscript
Sharon Littlefield, University of Minnesota
In 1565, the Tarif-i Husain Shah Badshah Dakhan was commissioned by Husain Nizam Shah, Sultan of Ahmadnagar from 1554-65. The manuscript, as its name suggests, is a history of the Deccani sultan's life. The text focuses on two important yet very different aspects of Husain Shah's reign: his love for his wife, Humayun Shah, and his defeat of the Vijayanagar empire.
The Tarif is illustrated with twelve miniature paintings to accompany its text composed in Persian verse. Although the names of the artists who produced these illustrations are unknown, certain questions reveal evidence about the way they worked. For example, how did the presence, absence, or specificity of text on an illustration affect an artist's imagination of the events described? Was an artist able to read the Persian text and how did that ability or inability affect his conception of the illustration? To which verses was an artist most responsive, those inscribed directly on an illustration page or those of the general narrative? These are some of the questions I will pose in order to elucidate the processes employed in the production of these paintings.
Thus it is the objective of this paper to explore the dynamics of text and image in the Tarif as one method towards understanding craftsmanship in Indian painting. While the analysis of relationships between words and images in the Tarif informs a discussion about the role of the painter in a specific Deccani manuscript, this paper will demonstrate that the implications of such a study move beyond geographical and temporal boundaries.