12 Pages


A picture does two things: it proposes how to see the world and what to see in it. That is the premise from which the subject of this book has been approached. In Mughal art as in its European or Chinese counterparts, painting is neither “written information,” to reiterate the complaint of the twentiethcentury French painter Andre Masson, nor simply an object of collection, a cultural signifier, or a historical testimony, but rather an elaborate product of thought and visual creation otherwise termed “aesthetic object.” My goal was to illuminate this status and function of painting in early Modern Mughal culture, to unravel its true ontology born of a subtly modulated transitive relationship between three distinct aesthetic metaphysics, that of Persian, Indo-Sultanate, and European pictorialities. I have argued the latter was an external newcomer of much lesser impact, albeit significant.