Western or Eastern? A Review of “My Name Is Red” from an art historicalPerspective
“I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning.”
The drawing of a tree, a copy of one of the illustrations for Enishte Effendi’s book, points out a recurring conflict in the novel “My Name Is Red” between art as representation of the world that God perceives, and art as depiction of the world which naked eye sees. In the world of Islamic art, the artists ought to create images stick to the text and the meaning of the world God created, so the tree on a single sheet laments that he lost his meaning without being a part of a book. When Enishte tells Black what Ottoman miniatures are, he says, “the images are the story’s blossoming in color” (Pamuk, 26). The images function as words to tell the story. Many people even think calligraphy should outweigh images in importance, disparage painting as flirtations with heresy. Continue reading “Review|The History of Miniature Painting in “My Name Is Red””→
The study of Mughal painting first became an interest for scholars during the colonial period in the eighteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the interest was further enhanced by the rich collections of Mughal painting in Europe and America. The naturalism in the Mughal style gained admirations from the collectors in the West, as Pramod Chandra explained: “its relative naturalism proving fairly acceptable to early collectors and students whose preferences reflected, for the most part, the pervasiveness of Western taste at the time.” Besides the pictorial quality, the foreign origin of Mughal art also made it acceptable for the colonizers to prove their cultural superiority over the Indians. Later in the twentieth century, shaped by the Western art historical approaches, interpretative frameworks for studying Mughal painting were established. Basic methodologies had been applied and became concentrations of the art historical practice in 1920s and 1930s such as connoisseurship and formal analysis. Since then, art historians had changed their interest from the European influence to the “interaction of Mughal and European art”. Not only was the impact of the European style on Mughal paintings the focus, the exchange between cultures was also investigated. After the independence (1947), a nationalist art historical perspective had been widely adopted by scholars in India due to the Nehruvian modern nationalism. In the 60s and 70s, scholars began to adapt the frameworks to the Mughal context. They still primarily concentrated on the style and the connoisseurship, but placed the paintings in the Mughal context in which art works were produced and appreciated. In recent decades, the contextual approach has been used by Mughal art historians. The viewpoint of studying Mughal art on its own terms is prevalent. Building context for Mughal painting is the focus of the Mughal academic society.
This article attempts at demonstrating the importance of the context of Mughal illustrated manuscripts. My examination starts with the collection from the South Kensington Museum (now V&A) by focusing on the “proper framing” provided by the art institution. Then I will discuss the history of the pages that had been detached from the binding, the practices of exhibiting and display in the museum space decontextualized the Mughal manuscripts, the digital archive further decontextualized the books.
In 1881, Caspar Purdon Clarke, the first Keeper of the South Kensington Museum’s Indian Department was sent to India to buy contemporary “industrial arts”. He bought some ‘large paintings’ in one of the wooden huts in Kashmir, and brought them to London, which were later identified as Hamzanama, the adventure stories of Amir Hamza, the paternal uncle of the Prophet produced in early Mughal. Continue reading “Mughal Series|Decontextualized Display of Mughal Manuscripts”→