courses

Personal Possessions of the Mughal Emperors and the Decorative Arts in Mughal India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

  • Begins: Wednesday 4 March 2020
    Until: Wednesday 1 April 2020
    (11am-1pm)
  • Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP
  • Lecturer: Dr Ursula Weekes

The Imperial Mughal court produced a wide range of valuable artefacts for use in their daily life. As a culture which emerged from Timurid traditions of itinerant court life, they placed enormous value on the kinds of objects that were portable. This course offers a detailed examination of these elite objects made at the Mughal court with examples chosen, where possible, from objects on view in London collections. We shall examine the materials, techniques and aesthetic qualities of these deluxe objects and consider their functions, purposes and audiences in the context of Mughal Indian court culture.

  1. Carpets and Tents. The Mughal court was constantly on the move so carpets and tents for the royal encampment were most important. This week we shall consider the refined methods of carpet weaving developed in the Mughal workshops and the meanings invested in their decoration, as well as evidence from Mughal paintings concerning how royal tents were put up, decorated and arranged.
  2. Marble and Jade. This week we focus on the jade wine cups of Jahangir and Shah Jahan in the V&A and British Museum. The inscriptions on these objects show they were of great dynastic importance and they offer an opportunity to consider the role of wine in court life and in poetic metaphor. We shall also consider a marble jali screen in the V&A and a marble stele in the British Museum with verses composed by Jahangir, which we can situate in a precise historical context.
  3. Dress and Textiles. The object this week is the embroidered Mughal hunting coat c.1620 in the V&A. We shall consider other textiles and use manuscript illustrations to consider the significance of dress and cloth at the imperial Mughal court and as a commodity within the Empire.
  4. Jewellery and Weapons. As well as the jewelled dagger of Shah Jahan in the Wallace Collection, the sword of Dara Shikoh in the British Museum, and the large ruby spinels in the V&A, we shall consider the significance of gemstones as dynastic gifts and their representation in Mughal paintings and think about the place of personal arms in Mughal court culture.
  5. Manuscripts. The Mughal Emperors valued the book arts and this week we shall consider some of the most significant manuscripts made for the royal family which are on display in London collections, including the Hamzanama and Akbarnama made for the Emperor Akbar and the Dara Shikoh Album made as a marriage gift for his wife in 1633.The Imperial Mughal court produced a wide range of valuable artefacts for use in their daily life. As a culture which emerged from Timurid traditions of itinerant court life, they placed enormous value on the kinds of objects that were portable.

Lecturer

Dr Ursula Weekes is an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she lectures on Mughal painting. She studied History at Cambridge and took her PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art. She has taught at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in Delhi and has worked as Supervisor of the Print Room at the Ashmolean Museum. Her PhD was published as Early Engravers and their Public (Harvey Miller 2004) and currently (2017) she is writing a book on The Great Mughals and the Art of Europe.

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