Chitarman - Shah Jahan on a Terrace Holding a Pendant Set with His Portrait (1627/8) - Metropolitan Museum of Art


Arts of Mughal India c.1550-1750

  • Begins: Wednesday 20 September 2017
    Until: Wednesday 18 October 2017
    (5 sessions on Wednesday mornings, 11am - 1pm)
  • Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP
  • Lecturer: Dr Ursula Weekes

This course will examine the rich artistic and cultural heritage of the powerful and opulent Mughal dynasty. We will consider the ways in which paintings, jewellery, luxury objects and architecture were used by successive emperors to project their divinely-ordained authority as rulers of India. We will also look at how they visually made connections to the Timurids, created links to Hindu concepts of kingship and used European symbolism to enhance their power, as well as examining their serious pursuit of pleasure.

  1. Mughal Power – This session focuses on how paintings, jewellery and other luxury objects were used by successive Mughal Emperors to project their divinely-ordained authority as rulers of India. We will consider how they visualised their dynastic connections to the Timurids, created visual links to Hindu concepts of kingship and appropriated European symbolism to articulate a vision of their own Messianic rule.
  2. Mughal Palaces – The Mughals are famous for their architecture of palaces, tombs and gardens. This session covers some of the most iconic buildings of the Mughals, from Agra Fort, and Akbar’s palace at Fatehpur Sikri to the Taj Mahal and the garden pavilions of Mughal queens. We will also consider how these buildings were visualised in contemporary Mughal paintings.
  3. Mughal Portraiture – The Mughals developed a profound interest in realistic portraiture, partly as a response to their engagement with European art, brought by merchants and ambassadors to India from the late sixteenth century onwards. This session looks at the motivations behind Mughal court portraiture and also questions the boundaries between observed likeness and naturalistic stereotype.
  4. Mughal Pleasure – Pleasure was a serious pursuit at the Mughal court! This session looks at paintings, buildings and objects connected to the Mughal court at leisure, including hunting, celebrating festivals such as Holi, in pursuit of love, or the life of the harem.
  5. Mughal Patchworks – The Mughals called their albums Muraqqa, which literally means ‘patchwork’. Mughal albums were beautifully woven together with paintings and calligraphies drawn from a wide variety of sources. This session considers what the Mughals were trying to achieve in their albums. In some cases, they were important sites of art historical memory and aesthetic dialogue between Persian, Indian and European cultures. Other albums served more dynastic functions, while some were tailored to a female audience as marriage gifts.


Dr Ursula Weekes is an independent art historian who teaches for the V&A Academy, The Courtauld Institute of Art and Guildford High School. Her book on Mughal Court Painting in India is forthcoming with Reaktion Books Ltd in 2022. You can find her on Instagram @ursulaweekes.

Places available

Book places