Christian-Islamic Relations in the Court Art of Mughal India

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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
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Christian–Islamic Relations in the Court Art of Mughal India


Dr. Punam Madhok

Associate Professor of Art History, School of Art and Design, East Carolina University
Greenville, NC, USA

Punam Madhok is an Associate Professor of Art History at East Carolina University (1994-present). Between 1991-1993 she taught Art History at Illinois Wesleyan University and Gettysburg College. She studied and completed her Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art (1993) and her M.A. in Chinese art (1986) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her dissertation was on "The Drawing Books of Henry Peacham and Jan de Bisschop and the Place of Drawing in the Education of the Renaissance Gentleman." She teaches courses in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art as well as in South, South-East, and East Asian art. She has presented papers at national and international conferences. Her published articles include "The Interplay between Marriage, Ritual, and Art in Mithila," "Kalighat Painting: A Unique Folk Art of Nineteenth Century Calcutta," “Rubens and the Classical Tradition,” and “The Gentleman’s Education and the Art of Drawing in Seventeenth Century England.” She has received grants to study works of art in Japan, Russia, Europe, and India. She exhibits her paintings at the Faculty Art Exhibition.

Ref: A09P0234