Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Art and the History of Art, Amherst College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
The Impulse towards a New Subject: Mughal Court Painting, 1570-1650

Mughal single-page paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth century-such as studies of animals and plants, portraits, translations from European engravings, and representations of Sufis and yogis-mark a decisive break from the narrative-driven painting traditions to which the Mughals were heirs. Scholars to date have too often attributed this transformation in artistic subject matter solely to the personal tastes of the reigning Mughal emperors. I hypothesize, however, that this transformation in subject matter speaks also to important changes in artistic practice, the institution of an elite culture of collecting, and the development of a new visual aesthetic. Even more, it suggests that the Mughal painting workshop and its output are connected to economic and cultural transactions well beyond traditionally accepted notions of political boundaries. Gifts of European paintings and engravings flowed into the Mughal court, where they became integral to a new artistic vision that lay outside the standard texts of epics, residing instead in the local and global spaces of cultural, artistic, and intellectual exchange. The Mughal single-page painting is more than a testimony to these processes; they are the materials upon and through which such negotiations were worked out. This project will focus on this shift towards new subject matter in Mughal single-page paintings, together with the album format, considered their appropriate repository. To this end, I will examine the relatively unstudied Dara Shikoh Album of 1633-42, the only intact Mughal album from the sixteenth or seventeenth century, as well as Mughal narrative manuscripts and dispersed albums, imperial memoirs and histories, poetic works, treatises on the arts, and European engravings. This dissertation's relevance extends beyond the discipline of art history to other fields concerned with the social history of collecting habits, theories of aesthetics, and the global economy of the early modem period.