Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Landscape With Villagers, Travellers, And Animals
circa 1800 CE
Materials and technique
Ink and watercolour on paper
28.7 x 41.4 cm
With much effort, the Mughals succeeded in conquering the various Deccani sultanates at the end of the seventeenth century, but the success left them somewhat depleted of energy and resources. The century that followed brought with it instability throughout India as a result of constant political struggles between smaller kingdoms and the Mughal emperor to whom they paid nominal allegiance in Delhi. The Deccan eventually came under the control of Nizam al-Mulk, the viceroy of the emperor Muhammad Shah (r. 1719-48 CE). Nizam al-Mulk left north India for the Deccan in 1724 CE, earned the title Asaf Jah from his master, and founded the Asafiya dynasty based in Hyderabad (and sometimes shifting to Awrangabad), which lasted until 1950 CE. Asaf Jah ruled relatively peacefully from 1724 CE until 1748 CE, but his descendants experienced power struggles with English, French, Marathas, and Nizams; Hyderabad was eventually relinquished as a British dependancy in 1800 CE (Zebrowski 1985, p. 244). The present painting was executed in the early nineteenth century, when the major patrons of art included the nizams, their Muslim and Hindu nobles, and sometimes feudatory princes (ibid.). Whereas the subjects of earlier Deccani painting, in particular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, tended to include rulers and leaders of Muslim states, later subject matter appears to be more general in nature. The peaceful landscape with villagers, travellers, and animals shows a sensitivity apparent in depictions of plants and animals in other paintings of the period (ibid., p. 245).
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