The small, incredibly detailed paintings in the exhibition “Muraqqa': Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin,” have visitors picking up the provided magnifying glasses in the galleries. Each work is chock full of things to find. I’m especially fascinated by the melding of painting styles and subject matter—you can see the influence of Persian miniature painting and Renaissance works. (Did you know that Persian was the administrative language of India until the British arrived? Found out on the PBS series “The Story of India“). India was a multicultural hub of trade and artistic exchange in the 17th century. I keep going back to check on the portrait of Jahangir, the size of an extra large stamp, put in the same folio as a portrait of Jesus. (During a staff tour, Academy Director Stephen Little pointed out that in these two-portraits-in-one folios, the Mughal emporer is always on top—he who pays for the painting gets top billing.) The catalog says duo depictions with Jesus wasn’t uncommon, though the reason for it has been lost to time. I see it as evidence of a religiously tolerant time during Muslim reign in India—much like Spain during its Islamic dynasties in the Middle Ages. Both cultures produced amazing art.
Here’s Shawn Eichman, Academy Curator of Asian Art, talking about this amazing exhibition, in a video produced by the Star Bulletin’s Nadine Kam, who also wrote an article on the artwork’s mash-up qualities. In today’s Advertiser is David A.M. Goldberg’s witty, illuminating review, making reference to everything from graffiti to facial hair trends. (One correction: Painters of miniature paintings used brushes of rat whiskers, not hairs, to achieve some of the incredibly tiny details.)
“Muraqqa'” is on view through March 1. You can take a docent-led tour of the exhibition on Feb. 17, 19, and 22. Or go on a zip tour during the next ARTafterDARK: Mughal.