Birds of Mughal India
The reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605 – 1627 CE) commissioned a number of albums - known as muraqqaʿ - in which talented artists captured in minute detail the lush flora and fauna of the vast lands under Mughal control.
Jahangir was particularly interested in zoology, and was famed for his careful observations of luxurious royal gifts such as prized hunting falcons, “new world” turkeys, and even one of the very last dodo birds prior to their extinction. He elevated the artist Ustad Mansur, a gifted painter whom Jahangir titled “the Wonder of the Age”, to lead royal workshops dedicated to the production of complex, lavishly illustrated albums picturing details of these and other fauna.
The folios in this exhibition are from later albums of the 19th century, continuing the tradition of cataloging the natural world of South Asia begun by Jahangir’s court. Frequently, and unfortunately, these albums were taken apart by European and North American collectors; paintings designed to be seen in a series were instead sold as separate artworks. By exhibiting these folios together, we hope to show a glimpse into the lost richness of these luxurious catalogs, and their celebration of the natural world.
Both artworks were purchased at auction by Doris Duke in 1962, after the original albums in which they featured had already been disassembled.