Mughal Series|An Examination of Mughal Hunting Scenes (Part B Jahangir and Shah Jahan)

Part A Introduction and Akbari hunting images

Hunting Scenes Under Jahangir’s Reign

Unlike his father, Jahangir’s commissions of hunting scenes did not concentrate on actions and movement. Instead, human personalities and individuality are emphasized. Jahangir inherited Akbar’s royal library and workshop, and dismissed a number of painters. His atelier was smaller than that of his father due to his higher standards. To Jahangir, his passion for the observation of the nature affected his artistic taste. His interest in animals and plants was shown in the paintings of his period. He observed the beauty of flowers and the precious birds he saw in Kashmir. He ordered the artists to paint pictures of them. He is considered as the connoisseur among the Mughal rulers. One single artist with greater responsibility in the workshop determined the final appearance of a painting, which made artist’s individuality shown in the painting more possible. Like his predecessors, Jahangir was eager to claim his Timurid heritage. The inscription on a monumental column he erected in 1605 tells Jahangir’s lineage down to Timur. Though during Jahangir’s reign, the empire was stable, the Mughal legitimacy was still needed to be established. Linking his rule to Timurid tradition underlines his divine kingship and undoubted power.

Jahangir is an emperor with a complex personality. He was a keen naturalist, who studied animals and precious birds when he was traveling in his kingdom. Two cranes were taken to his court at the age of one month, and given the names of Layla and Majnun who are the tragic lovers of Persian literature. Jahangir devoted himself studying the cranes from their daily routine, mating, to the hatching of the eggs, and all details were carefully recorded. On the other side, he loved killing animals. In 1617, he listed 28,532 animals killed by him at the age of fifty, including mountain goat, sheep and deer, wolves, wild fox and boar, pigeons, hawks, pelicans, a total of 86 lions, 3473 crows and 10 crocodiles.[18]
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Mughal Series|An Examination of Mughal Hunting Scenes (Part A Intro and Akbar)

Problems of Power, Imperial Identity, and the Central Asian Legacy


The majority of contemporary studies of Mughal painting present its changes in style and artistic tradition. The studied paintings have been seen examples of historical narrative and visualized text. However, the fact that many illustrations are generically appropriate for describing the adjacent text tells Mughal painting cannot be fully comprehended in this way.[1] Unlike most book-length studies and articles that examine the identification and comparison of styles, in the article “The Hierarchical Principles of Shah-Jahani Painting”, Ebba Koch argues that the Shah-Jahani manuscripts were created not merely for an aesthetic purpose, but explored to political ends, to create programmatic statements of order and hierarchy, a driving force which was not supposed to change throughout the paintings created under his reign.[2] The examination of Shah Jahani painting within the power structure of the emperor’s rule provides an integrative approach that uncovers the political and ideological concepts in Mughal painting. For example, the darbar scenes (court scenes) under the reign of Akbar are depicted as small private meetings and figures are given a sense of movement in the architectural settings. In contrast, the same theme of painting from Shah Jahan’s time is shown as an ever-repeated and standardized image. According to Ebba Koch, this change in the court style is purposeful since the artistic aspects of Shah Jahani painting were highly regulated towards the emperor’s imperial ideology.

Taking Ebba Koch’s notion of power structure as a starting point, this article is going to examine another recurring theme in Mughal painting, the royal hunt, by looking at the dynamics of power structure through their imperial identity. This study seeks to incorporate the Central Asian legacy of Mughals and the concept of sacred kingship into the exploration of qualities of leadership to reveal the different self-realizations of Mughal emperors.
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