Exhibition Catalogue

Imperial Mughal Albums
From the Chester Beatty Library

By Elaine Wright
With contributions by: Susan Stronge, Wheeler M. Thackston, Steven Cohen,
Charles Horton, Rachel Smith and Jessica Baldwin

Throughout history, people have assembled albums that record their lives and the world around them. Among the most remarkable of all albums ever created are those made in the years 1600-1657 for the emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The Mughal dynasty ruled India for more than three centuries, but the period of greatest artistic production was that of these two great emperors, and the albums of paintings and calligraphy (called muraqqa' in Persian), that they assembled now serve as a window to understanding the history and culture of this important period of Indian history. The paintings in the albums include formal (often symbolic) portraits of the emperors themselves, depictions of members of the royal family in relaxed private settings, portraits of courtiers, Sufi saints and mystics, genre scenes, and natural history subjects.

Softcover: 500 pages

This full color catalogue is available in the Nelson-Atkins Museum Store. Cost is $45.

Library Display

Where Art and Literature Combine: Illuminated Manuscripts from the Eastern and Western Worlds
Spencer Art Reference Library
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
March 2 –June 14, 2009

Before the advent of the printing press, books were created by hand by scribes and illustrated with painted images or decorative texts. In the Islamic world, these books were mainly texts of the Koran, but many literary and historical works were illustrated with miniature paintings that illuminate what life was like. In the West, throughout the Middle Ages books were created by hand in monastic scriptoriums. Manuscript painting in the Middle Ages was mainly for religious texts like the Bible. Other literary forms were also popular, such as the Book of Hours and the Bestiary.

The titles listed in the reading guide below are divided into two sections: 23 titles are currently on display in the Library’s Reading Room, in conjunction with the exhibition From the Land of the Taj Mahal: Paintings for India’s Mughal Emperors in the Chester Beatty Library.  This group includes titles related to manuscript illumination in the Islamic and the Western worlds from the collection of the Spencer Art Reference Library. In the Further Reading section, we have included materials held by the Museum’s Educator Resource Center, along with a short list of online resources, starting off with the Chester Beatty Library website.

Library Reading Guide (PDF)

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