Through the centuries, Persian classical tales have regaled audiences with stories narrating the lives and emotions of diverse human actors, including heroes and anti-heroes, transmitted orally as well as copied into manuscripts containing illustrations. One of the most-loved heroes of Persian classical literature is the legendary Rustam, the fiery and brave military commander and king-maker from Sistan.
Author: Dipanwita Donde
Images depicting sorrow were rare, though not an uncommon genre, contained in illustrated manuscripts produced during the Mughal reign in India (1526 – 1857). The tradition of image-making during Mughal rule can be traced to earlier Timurid (15th century) and Ilkhanid periods (14th century), whose subject mainly consisted of histories of dynasties, Persian poetic and literary works and biographies of Turko-Mongol rulers. Images displaying tragedy and loss were limited to death scenes of legendary and historic rulers, heroes and anti-heroes, and saints and protagonists from literary works. The main corpus of images, however, contained themes that exalted the ruler, depicted his might and strength and displayed his connoisseurship of literature, art and culture. Therefore, despite their limited role, the tragic end of heroes, rulers and saints were as much part of the literary and visual cultural history, as were narratives and legends glorifying their lives.
Is it likely that contemporary Indian graphic novelists draw inspiration from medieval Indian artists who composed illustrated manuscripts? There is negligible research on the transference of Indo-Persian artistic practices in the works of modern and contemporary artists in India. One of the causes maybe the disadvantage concerning scholars familiar with Urdu and Persian languages, limiting access to the literary and art historical discourse in circulation, during the early twentieth century. Scholars researching modernism in the art of Muslim South Asia, however, have attempted to address the issue; but more studies are awaited.
“Real Birds in Imagined Gardens”, arises out of Kavita Singh’s lecture titled, “Looking East, Looking West: Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe” as part of the Getty Research Institute Council’s lecture series, held at the Getty Centre in 2015. As outlined in the foreword, the book joins the rich stream of ongoing research ‘that transcends the traditional boundaries of Western art history.’ (p.vii). At the core of the volume, lies the endeavour to underline how Mughal painters enthusiastically received and responded to the arts of Europe. In addition, Singh also considers the interests, precedents and legacies of Mughal painting occasioned through the circulation of objects, ideas and individuals from Safavid Iran to Mughal India (Hindustan).