Miniature Paintings from South Asia

The long history of painting on the Indian subcontinent is dominated by two formats: the large-scale mural, which decorated the walls of temples and royal palaces, and the miniature, which illustrated the stories of both sacred and secular manuscripts. Each format played a fundamental role in the development of the visual culture of South Asia, and, because they are highly portable, manuscript paintings first brought the region’s artistic tradition to the world’s attention. The production of miniature paintings flourished during the Mughal Empire (1526–1858). Mughal artists were strongly influenced by Persian painting, and the style of miniature painting that eveloped and was refined at the Mughal court would later spread to other Indian royal courts. The narratives that were illustrated vary widely. Some paintings accompanied religious texts, as the written word is central to the various religions found in South Asia, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jain, and Islam. A rich secular literary tradition—including tales of rulers, romances, and dramas—also contributed to the large output of illustrated texts. Dealers who handled these illustrated manuscripts often would unbind the books and sell the miniatures individually. Brightly colored and full of detail, Indian miniatures became highly sought works of art.

  • 42162
    Indian
    The Palace of Ravana the Demon King, scene from The Ramayana, 2nd half of the 18th century
    y1930-309
  • 54911
    Indian, Mughal, Reign of Akbar , 1556-1605
    Arjuna Beheading Karna with an Anjalike Weapon from the Razmnama (Book of War), 1598–99
    y1969-38
  • 54912
    Indian, Mughal, Reign of Akbar , 1556-1605
    Portrait of Sharif [ . . . ] from the Salim Album, ca. 1600
    y1969-39
  • 54449
    Indian
    Mughal , Reign of Akbar, 1556–1605
    Feast at Sultan Jalāu’d-dīn’s House at Karrah from the Baburnama (Book of Babur), ca. 1598
    y1971-30
  • 14203
    Indian, Deccan
    Composite Elephant, ca. 1620–30
    x1979-56
  • 87648
    Indian
    The Goddess Durga Fighting Demons from the Devi Mahatmya, ca. 1690–1710
    y1947-341.6
  • 42173
    Indian
    The Goddess Durga on a Lion from the Devi Mahatmya, ca. 1690–1710
    y1947-341.1
  • 93322
    Indian, Deccan
    A prince visiting a female ascetic, early 18th century
    2013-111
  • 86808
    Indian
    Mana Lalji, ca. 1860
    2013-15
  • 59498
    Indian
    Ferocious Falcon, late 18th century
    2010-137
  • 125445
    Indian
    Faizallah, of the Awadh school
    Bhils Hunting by Night, ca. 1760
    2016-51
  • 61123
    Indian
    Shiva with his sons Ganesha and Karttikeya, late 19th–early 20th century
    2011-60