Mughal Miniature Paintings

The art and the subjects narrated in art are always like a mirror. It reflects the contemporary society; and so did the art of painting known as Mughal Miniatures, that was a style of painting developed in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Descended from the art of Persia and Turkey, these miniature paintings and the artists were supported by Mughal Emperors the Rajput Kings.

Abul Fazl Presenting Akbarnama

In many ways, the subjects and objects painted in these paintings are narrative. They show how the people of India lived in those days. On a close look, we can see the style of living and the types of costumes and ornaments these people were wearing in the medieval or post-medieval era. For those who want to know more about the living of Indian Princes, Kings, and Emperors of those days, here are some articles which narrate the different aspects of these Miniature paintings.

Paintings Depicting Medieval Indian Culture and Lifestyle :

Mughal Miniatures, Jaipur and Rajasthan Paintings

A Miniature from Baburnama, Memoirs of Babur (1483-1530)

The art of Miniature paintings is a golden page in India’s art history. The miniature paintings have their presence in India since one thousand years. But it gained wide recognition in the time of Mughal King Akbar.


The art of Miniature paintings is a golden page in India’s art history.. It was the time of sixteenth and seventeen century that made the art of miniature paintings so popular in India. The miniature paintings depicted the life and lifestyle of the Mughal and Rajput Kings of the time. The miniatures were painted to narrate how the princes lived, what they wear and how they fought the wars. However the major portions of the artists’ endeavours were devoted in showing the ways and manners in which these medieval kings and princes enjoyed their life. Thus these miniature paintings were not only the mute spectator of their era, but they still are the authenticated witness of the social and cultural development of the medieval India.

THE ART: These paintings full of subtlety and sophistication that how the artists have displayed their emotions through the art of miniature paintings. And that too before centuries when there were no enough technique and colours available. The paintings of this style, miniatures, of art are also seen in fragments of murals in many parts of south India(Image CourtesyWikimedia Commons)

Lifestyle of Medieval India

The people shown in Mughal Miniatures paintings represent the lifestyle of the Mughal and Rajput period. Especially the female figures painted in Mughal Miniatures depict the characteristics of Indian tradition of the time. Their ornaments, costumes and the colour of the clothes witness the class to which they belong. The ornaments like Necklaces, bracelets, rings form part of the set adding beauty to the men and women of the medieval India. The people shown in the paintings mainly came from upper class and the princely families.
Princes and princesses wearing gold and jewelleries were like the mines of the subjects for paintings, and they used these mines extensively. Associated almost exclusively with royalty, the jewelleries were, too, the subject for miniature artists to consider before taking brushes in hand. It was an emblem of power and proof of the wealth. While looking at the mughal miniatures we can see that they resemble the Persian style of paintings. It is so because the artists who did mughal era.

After death of Babur, who was a poet and an artist himself, his heirs carried the artistic journey. The following Emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan added their vision to transport the cart of art ahead.


The miniature style of paintings practiced during this period was clearly influenced by the style of Persian painters who used upright format and general setting with emphasis on flat aerial perspective.

The Mighal era artists, in the time of King Akbar (1556-1605), maintained the qualities of Persian style in their work. But they added their vision and took some freedom. They applied naturalism and tried depiction of detailed observation of the world in immediate surround.

In addition to the Mughal kings, the Rajput kings who ruled Jaipur and surrounding area, too, had sponsored the artworks and the artists who did miniature paintings under various schools of Rajputana. (Image Courtesy Wikimedia Comons) 

Akbarnama, The Book of Secular Art 

History of Mughal Miniature paintings is the history of India's medieval period.

Mughal King Akbar in his Court

After death of Babur, in 1526, there had been turmoil in Delhi the capital of India. But the dethroned sone of Babar managed to regain his kingdom and left his monor son Akbar as king. Babar was a poet and an artist himself, his heirs carried the artistic journey.  The following Emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan  added their vision and transported the car of the art ahead.
COLOURS USED IN MUGHAL MINIATURES : The technique of miniature paintings requires a high degree of expertise, as this art delicate use of brushes and paints.

The colours used by the artists of Mughal era chiefly came from materials like minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, and conch shells. The painters sponsored by the Emperor have used gold and silver to decor the paintings, as such luxury was limited to the court painters only.

The colours with gold and silver were used extensively in the paintings showing the love scenes of princes and other court figures. Otherwise with the use of not so rich palette, compared to the colours available in the modern time, the Mughal Miniature artists had executed their works of art creating lively effect and balanced composition.

In the above painting, the court of Akbar is shown. He was having a meeting with religious leaders. Unlike other Mohammedan kings, Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) was known for his liberal views about following one’s religion. He regularly held religious holds religious assemblies with the heads of different religions.

In the above miniature paintings that are a page from Akbarnama, the two men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries, Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques. This illustration was painted for the Akbarnama, the Book Of Akbar, a book describing the emperor Akbar's time and deeds. The painter of this miniature is believed to be Nar Singh and the year was 1605. (Image Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)
Akbarnama depicts the mughal miniature paintings and narration of Emperor Akbar's life and deeds.

THE ART : Persian painters of miniature style had used upright formats as their subject of depiction they emphasized.

While looking at the Mughal miniatures we can see that they resemble the Persian style of paintings. It is so because the artists who did Mughal era paintings were mainly influenced by the Persian paintings and they were initially trained by two great painters who had come to India. The Emperor Humayun, son of Babur and father of Akbar had fetched these two artists from Persia (today’s Iran).

Poet Abul Fazal Presenting Akbarnama to the Emperor
The Mughal Miniature artists, especially those who painted during the time of Emperor Akbar (1556-1605), maintained that qualities of the Persian style, too, in their work. But they were progressive, too. They added their vision and took some artistic freedom, applying naturalism in their work. These artists tried depicting the detailed observation of the world in their 
immediate surround. In that sense they were like genre painters. Keen observation of some of the paintings of Akabarnama would speak about the changed perspective.  

In the above Miniature Painting, the artists and poet Abul Fazl presents a copy of Akabarnama to the Emperor Akbar. The Akbarnama, meaning Book of Akbar, is a biographical account of Emperor Akbar’s life and works. This book, Akabarnama, is also like a mirror of the medieval Indian culture and art.  (Imeage Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

Miniature Paintings Depicting Costumes of Medieval Indian society : Main aspect that catches our eyes is the colourful and costly costumes the people have put on. The costumes shown in these paintings represent the lifestyle prevalent in the period of Mughal Emperors and Rajput kings. Especially the female figures painted in Mughal Miniatures depict the characteristics of Indian tradition of the time.

Miniatures Painting History of IndiaThe miniature paintings were done by Indian artists since many centuries; we can see some paintings done in sixth and seventh century, too. But the art of miniature painting reached its golden period during the reign of Mughal Emperors. Baburnama, Akbarnama, and Jahangirnama were the books narrating the heroic deeds of the emperors. Mughal Miniature Paintings are the pictorial history of India’s Medieval. The style of painting known as Mughal Miniature was practiced in India from 16th to 19th century. When Emperor Akbar was ruling in Indian subcontinent, this art gained its prominence.

Baburnama, An Autobiography of an Emperor: In many of the Mughal Miniature Paintings, painted in the time of Emperor Babur and afterwards, the artists have taken the love scenes and the scenes of bravery of Mughal princes as their subjects. Here the Emperor Babur is shown as hunting. [Image courtesy By Евгений Ардаев at ru.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia ]
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