Christian-Islamic Relations in the Court Art of Mughal India
Beginning in 1580, Jesuit missionaries introduced the Mughal court to a wide spectrum of Renaissance art. The realism and devotional power seen in representations of Biblical themes aroused much interest at the Mughal court. The Mughals, a young dynasty, were looking for ways to legitimate their claims to sovereignty in a conquered country. They had to reconcile their Timurid-Islamic background with the strong, ancient culture of their Hindu subjects. Although the Mughals never adopted the Christian faith, they found Biblical images ideal tools for demonstrating their divine status and superiority as rulers in India. No other Islamic culture produced as many Biblical works as were painted by artists of the Mughal court. The prints and paintings supplied by Jesuit missionaries helped the Mughals translate their ideas of governance into visual form. Quite contrary to their intentions, the Jesuits were turned into providers of imperial Mughal propaganda. It is my aim to shed further light on the strategies of acculturation that were at work and to point out differences in approach to Mughal-Christian art between its two great patrons, Akbar and his son Jahangir.
Keywords: Jesuits and the Mughals, Mughal-Christian Art, Akbar and Jahangir
Dr. Punam Madhok
Associate Professor of Art History, School of Art and Design, East Carolina University