Accompanying an exhibition at the Museum Rietberg, this catalogue of 60 works drawn from one of the most important private collections in Europe provides an excellent survey of Indian painting from 1575-1850 from two of the most important sources: the court of the north Indian Mughal rulers and the ateliers in the Deccan farther south. The works present a wide variety of styles and themes and invite close examination.
Mughal culture was one of the richest the world has ever seen. The magnificence of the Mughal palaces and tombs, the pomp of the court, the lavish ceremonies and feasts, the fame of the court poets, intellectuals, painters and musicians, the sumptuousness of the courtiers' attire--all these came together to create an aristocratic culture of extraordinary wealth and grandeur. Books--and above all books lavishly decorated with exquisite miniatures--had a role and a status in Mughal culture which is almost unimaginable today. They were among the most valuable and certainly the most prized objects in the imperial treasury and were used systematically and effectively to propagate the political goals of the ruler.
Whereas Mughal artists depict the real world, record historical events, and portray their patrons in realistic likenesses, Deccanni painters, instead, aim at evoking lyrical moods. They invent paradisal dreamworlds bathed in fantastic, flamboyant colors, sparkling with gold. When they represent their rulers, they create idealized, introspective figures lost in the quiet enchantment of love, or music, or merely the perfume of a beautiful flower.