Exquisite Folios and Paintings Reveal the Intricacies of Mughal and Persian Art
Image credit: Sad'i and the Youth of Kashgar
Ascribed to Bihzad From a copy of the Gulistan (Rosegarden) by Sa'di Iran, present-day Afghanistan, Herat, 1486 Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper Lent by the Art and History Trust, LTS 1995.2.33
India's Mughal emperors, who reigned over a vast and wealthy empire that extended over most of the South Asian subcontinent between the 16th and 19th centuries, were passionate about lavish manuscripts and paintings. Between 1556 and 1657, the greatest Mughal patrons-the emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan-formed grand workshops that brought together and nurtured India's leading painters, calligraphers and illuminators.
This remarkable artistic legacy is on view in "Worlds within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran" at the Sackler July 28 through Sept. 17. The exhibition brings 50 of the finest folios and paintings from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery collections, which together form one of the world's most important repositories of Mughal and Persian painting.
The exhibition's title, "Worlds within Worlds," refers to the complex layering of multiple images within single folios, their many references to Persian and European styles and subjects and the emperors' sense of self as world rulers.
The exhibition is a highlight of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's 25th anniversary celebration in 2012.
For the great Mughal emperors, the arts of the book embodied refinement and imperial identity. Sophisticated connoisseurs, they took a personal interest in their artists and their individual styles. In a constant play of tradition and innovation, court painters, calligraphers and illuminators built upon a Persian cultural heritage, cited European motifs and keenly captured the observed world to create a distinctively Mughal ethos.
The greatest Mughal works on paper are intriguing amalgams of portraits, symbols of sovereignty, illuminated borders and calligraphy that announce a distinctive imperial sense of self and dynasty. Their painterly virtuosity can be savored in details ranging from the soft fur of a grazing antelope to the world-weary gaze of a magnificently jewelled emperor.
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public may visit asia.si.edu.
For information about special programs for the Sackler's 25th anniversary year, visit asia.si.edu/Sackler25. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285
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