A signature at the bottom of the third example of the 1589 Baburnama (M7) provides us with the name of Kamal Kashmiri. Very little is known about this artist but his name occurs on a Timurnama illustration in the Khuda Baksh Public Library at Patna. Thus there seems no reason to doubt the signature or the attribution, and it may be noted that, as in this instance, Kamal Kashmiri was also responsible for painting the Timurnama illustration by himself. He was obviously from Kashmir, but whatever his manner may have been in his native land, in the imperial karkhana he mastered the Mughal style as well as any of his colleagues. Both in terms of technique and aesthetic, this Baburnama painting is a classic example of the visual revolution achieved by the Mughal artists.
Whether by Kamal Kashmiri or not, the picture is a lively illustration of the occasion when Babur went to China-fort and took a trip on a raft. As he wrote so graphically in his memoirs:

     Just where the Panjhir-water comes in, the raft struck the naze of a hill and began to sink. Rauh-dam, Tingri-Quli and Mir Muhammad the raftsman were thrown into the water by the shock; Rauh-dam and Tingri-Quli were got on the raft again; a China cup and a spoon and a tambour went into the water.

     The same subject is also illustrated in the Moscow Baburnama25 but with less expressiveness. As we see in this picture, more than one raft was involved but what is more interesting is the greater sense of drama and excitement expressed in this version than in the Moscow example. The water is made much more menacing here; Babur and his companion display greater concern for their fallen colleagues; and the disorder and agitation of the accident are also conveyed by the two jackals in the foreground who were obviously taken by surprise.

     The Baburnama was probably the most popular manuscript to have been copied and illustrated, and at least four versions are known. The two facing pages from another Baburnama (M8) not only demonstrate the minuteness in detail, the complexity of composition and the sureness of execution, characteristic of the mature Mughal style, but together they provide us with a vividly graphic picture of the pomp and ceremony of the Mughal court. As the enthroned Babur presents strands of pearls to Humayun, we are afforded an eyewitness view of the colour and bustle of a court that appears slightly out of control. Here a man is busy filling elegant cups; there a group presses upon the throne with weapons and standards; somewhere musicians provide music, while elsewhere, rather indecorously, a man ties his turban; someone has brought a falcon, while grooms lead Arabian steeds; yet others have brought baskets filled with textiles and richly encrusted daggers; and some are just hangers-on. Except for the fifth century Buddhist murals of Ajanta, no other pictures have captured the bustle and opulence of an oriental court with such vividness as have such Mughal representations.

     The Akbarnama of 1604 (M11-12) is generally considered to be the last book of renown to have been produced at the time of Akbar for the emperor died the next year. Several of the detached illustrations were in more recent years given borders from later Persian manuscripts. Apart from such veterans as Mishkin, younger artists such as Daulat, Balchand, Govardhan and Mansur, many of whom attained fame under Jahangir, worked on this manuscript, but the paintings are often unsigned. Although accomplished, the pictures of this Akbarnama are not as exciting as those of the earlier manuscript (M3). Not only can one discern touches of less experienced hands, but the 1604 Akbarnama reflects signs of diminished vitality in the imperial workshop, as if like their aging emperor, the painters too were tired.

     Be that as it may, in such historical manuscripts or in other pictures produced towards the end of Akbar's reign (M9, M11-12), we see new elements of style that cannot be explained in terms of a synthesis between the Indian and Persian traditions alone. Compared to the early Akbari books, those produced towards the end of the reign reveal greater technical virtuosity and psychological insights. Compositions became more complex and varied; perspective was better understood and the space within the picture was better organized; the landscapes were rendered more artfully; figures were more forcefully modeled; the brushwork was subtler and more accomplished; and the tonality reflected more sophistication. Even more importantly, stronger emphasis was now placed on individual characterizations, which were stressed in portraits and became even more intent and notable in Jahangiri pictures. Many of these achievements were due not to internal developments but to the artists' familiarity with external sources: European prints, engravings and pictures.

The European Connection

     It was quite common for Mughal artists to copy European prints directly, as we see in two examples illustrated here (M13-14), or to adopt European pictorial devices freely (M15). Curiously most of the studies were of Christian themes which no doubt reflect both Akbar's and Jahangir's keen interest in the foreign religion. Indeed, many contemporary observers have remarked upon Jahangir's fascination with Christian subjects and the following passage by Guerreiro is particularly revealing:

     Throughout the discussions of which we have spoken, the King always showed his deep regard for Christ our Lord. He also spoke very strongly in favour of the use of pictures, which, amongst the Moors, are regarded with abhorrence; and on coming from Lahor, and finding his palaces at Agra very beautifully decorated and adorned both inside and outside with many pictures which had already been completed, and others that were being painted, in a balcony where he sits daily to be seen by the people; nearly all these pictures were of a sacred character, for in the middle of the ceiling there was a painting of Christ our Lord, very perfectly finished, with an aureola, and surrounded by angels; and on the walls were some small pictures of the saints, including John the Baptist, St. Anthony, St. Bernadino of Sena, and some female saints. In another part were some Portuguese figures of large size also very beautifully painted.26

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M7
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M8a
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M8b
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M9
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M11
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M12
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M13
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M14
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M15