research forum visiting professor lecture

‘Darshan,’ Art and the Framing of Power at the Imperial Mughal Court

Thursday, 9 December 2010

16.00 - 17.10, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Jahangir bare-chested wearing turban and pearls
Pl. 46. Jahangir bare-chested at a jharokha window. Mughal, ca. 1620. Album 4, foll.11a. Source: Raza Library, Rampur, India

Speaker(s): Ursula Weekes (independent scholar)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott

This lecture considers how imperial Mughal ideology expressed in the arts was profoundly affected by the connected histories of Europe and India during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The assimilation of European art under Jahangir provided a catalyst for dramatic new approaches to representations of the Emperor’s body in painting. The display of his figure standing or enthroned as an embodiment of Mughal rule became primary, rather than the earlier emphasis on portrayals of the Emperor Akbar with divine-like personal qualities in narrative settings. Likewise, under Jahangir there seems to have been a growing awareness of the frame as a signifier of meaning, in response to European art. The jharoka portraits of Jahangir isolate his image and frame him in order to collapse the boundaries between the performative ritual of ‘darshan’ as practised at court (a Hindu concept of beholding the deity) and the performative power of the art work itself. In this sense the jharoka images of Jahangir take on a mimetic quality quite absent from earlier Akbari painting. The lecture also considers the impact of European art on the Jahangir’s desire to disseminate his likeness, which indirectly led to his face becoming a global phenomenon.

Ursula Weekes is Research Forum Visiting Professor at The Courtauld in the academic year 2010-11. She was formerly Supervisor of the Print Room at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. She gained her PhD in 2002 from The Courtauld Institute of Art (published as 'Early Engravers and their Public' by Brepols/Harvey Miller, 2004). From 2004 to 2010 she was based in Delhi as a Postdoctoral Commonwealth Fellow at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, and she also taught on Mughal and Renaissance art for the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is now in London, completing her book on 'The Great Mughals and the Art of Europe'.

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