Madonna, Christ and Mughals Paintings

In September 1579, Akbar’ sent an ambassador to Goa:

” I am sending Abdullah, my ambassador, and Dominic Perez (an Armenian Christian, the interpreter) with the request that you will send me two learned Fathers and the books of Law, especially the Gospel, that I may know the Law and its excellence…”

This began a close relationship between the Mughals and the Jesuits. This closeness was reflected in art and culture too. It is fascinating to notice the Indian and Persian influence on the paintings and features of the Madonna and Christ.

“The Armenians, who had two churches in Delhi (both destroyed by Nadir Shah in 1739) used to hold a Christmas drama at which Mughal nobles and Rajput chieftains were among the prominent invitees. They sought the emperor’s presence at the play in 1625-26 and Jahangir agreed as he sometimes used to attend a similar one held in Agra since his father’s time. At that play, records the Franciscan Annals, little boys and girls dressed as angels, took part on Christmas night. The emperor was present and rose petals were showered on him. Earlier, “on Christmas morning Akbar used to come to the church (he had ordered to be built) with his courtiers to see the representation of the cave in which Jesus was born and the good shepherds kept watch. Afterwards the ladies of his harem also visited the manger.” Jahangir once presented beeswax candles at the church at Lahore, “through which he was conducted like a bishop, to the chiming of bells and singing of carols”, writes historian R V Smith

index The paintings commissioned by Akbar and Jahangir was a blend of Western iconography with Indian and Islamic elements. This is a Virgin and Child dating to 1600-25. Mary watches over  baby Jesus, who holds her hand and grasps flowers.

Screen-shot-2012-02-24-at-8.24.08-AMJahangir and Jesus .The portrait of Jahangir was done by the Mughal artist, Hashim, and Jesus, by Abu’l Hassan. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Christ6a folio from the Mughal Bible, showing the Nativity scene. The painting shows the limited knowledge of the painters as there are  two magis instead of three and there is a bejewelled Mary with the architecture popular in Islamic kingdoms as a background instead of a stable.

The Bible was translated nto Persian by Abul Fazl

virginandchildA Madonna and Child, by one of Akbar’s court painters, Basavan (c. 1590)

47505Emperor Akbar’s exceptional interest in Christianity is reflected in many ways. Among these was his commissioning in 1602 of a Life of Christ from his guest, the Jesuit priest Jerome Xavier, called Mirʾāt al-quds (Mirror of Holiness): A Life of Christ for Emperor Akbar

557740Jahangir holding a picture of the Madonna, inscribed in Persian ( National Museum)

12_13-CoverStory-IndianXmas-5Madonna with Infant Jesus :attributed, 17th century, Mughal, Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. This was on a UK stamp in 2005 Christmas.

F1907.267Adoration of the Christ Child
ca. 1630 (Golconda, Deccan, India) Freer and Sakley0e8b782e31512beccdd670c2199b25d6Painting, ca. 1600-1610. May depict the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, forty days after his birth. From the Victoria and Albert Museum.

514e49e154a92c3a98a08285c0daf8e9The Inn at Bethlehem  Mughal, Date: ca. 1600-05 V&A Museum

cb7dccafe87a96a1ba601364eb74aff7Christ seated in a palace chamber with a female devotee crouching at his feet, surrounded by male courtiers in European-style dress Mughal, circa 1610-20 ( Bonhams)

b6ef9fa2ed5717e838c92d13728518cdSt Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, Ascribed in verso Emperor Jahangir’s Hand to the Artist Miskina Mughal, Akbar period, circa 1600

cb7dccafe87a96a1ba601364eb74aff7Christ seated in a palace chamber with a female devotee crouching at his feet, surrounded by male courtiers in European-style dress Mughal, circa 1610-20 (Bonhams)
image
Mughal depiction c 1630 of Virgin Mary and Jesus (J.14,2). British Library
84c089b3b2acafd458b48b2c5958adebHossein Naqqash, Archangel Raphael, (c. 1590, Mughal; Musée Guimet, Paris)

455f897d1924e2349c147d04f22087e1Album of Persian and Indian calligraphy and paintings, Mary and Jesus, Walters Manuscript

0e8b782e31512beccdd670c2199b25d6Painting, ca. 1600-1610. May depict the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, forty days after his birth. From the Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

Comment List

  • r venkatesh 23 / 12 / 2014 Reply

    absolutely fantastic article. very aptly timed, and very beautifully covered the details. highlights the culturally integrated nature of the Mughal court.

    • Rana Safvi 25 / 12 / 2014 Reply

      Thank you

  • r venkatesh 23 / 12 / 2014 Reply

    absolutely fantastic article, very beautifully covered the topic. highlights the culturally integrated nature of Mughal court, and our medieval times.

  • Shehla Naqvi 27 / 12 / 2014 Reply

    I loved the 17 century Mughal painting of brown skinned Madonna with Indian features. Shows me that they considered these looks and that skin color, beautiful and ideal.

  • Kalpasree 14 / 12 / 2015 Reply

    What a lovely page. Thanks for enlightening us. Just love the paintings.

  • Shalini 24 / 12 / 2015 Reply

    An excellent post! I learned so much today Thanks for sharing

  • Arpita 24 / 12 / 2015 Reply

    Nice article. A great insight into muslim-jesuit relation. Thanks for the post.

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