Mika Natif Lecture


Monday, March 4, 2013 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

“Mughal Occidentalism: Rethinking Artistic Encounters Between Europe and Asia at the Mughal Courts of India”

Mika Natif, PhD, Assistant Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Harvard Art Museums

Since the reign of Emperor Akbar the Great (d. 1605), paintings produced in Mughal India began to evince responses from Mughal artists to European art. This lecture centers on the phenomenon of what I term “Mughal Occidentalism,” namely the trans-global style and visual expression that Mughal artists and patrons developed following the meeting of Indian painting with Renaissance art; the use of European pictorial techniques by Muslim and Hindu artists; and the transformation of Christian visual culture into an Indian idiom. By analyzing visual and textual evidence, I examine these works of art from the perspective of the Mughals, and observe how Mughal artists were recontextualizing Western motifs and creating their own vernacular/cosmopolitan aesthetics. This synthesis of European and Indo-Persian pictorial traditions became the hallmark of the Mughal painting style.

Emperor Jahangir and Jesus. Album page from Mughal India, ca 1618-20.