Reading Workshop 1: The Brush and the Burim

The essay by Yael Rice begins with the fact that there are few written documentations of Jesuit missions to the Mughal court. However, vivid visual records are seen in Mughal paintings given to the Muslim emperor Akbar.


How has previous scholarship approached Mughal painting that depicts the encounter between Western and Mughal painting? In contrast to this, what is the author arguing for in this essay?

Previous scholarship approached Mughal painting usually focuses on the influence European prints have on Mughal painting. They have not studied much on the engravings alone. Rice points out the way European engravings were adopted into the visual language of Mughal art. Mughal art focuses heavily on lines so Mughal artists and patrons were attracted to and more receptive to prints. This shows that european engravings suited the existing system of aesthetics and artistic practice.


Calligraphy folio from the Gulshan Album
Calligraphy folio from the Gulshan Album


How can we understand calligraphy in the Mughal context?

As the vehicle for the sacred word, the Arabic script—not
only its semantic content, but also its physical
and formal properties—is considered divine, the
calligrapher’s art the most esteemed.

The appreciation for calligraphy exists not just in Mughal texts but throughout the islamic arts. Calligraphy takes a priority over painting where the brush of the painter, is termed a second ‘pen’ next to the scribe’s reed instrument.


What is the relationship between engravings and calligraphy?

The essay suggests that artists may have found a relationship between the effects of the tools for engraving (Burin) and for Calligraphy (Reed Pen).

Indeed, engravings are decidedly calligraphic—in their concentration
on linear means to build up compositions they
perhaps share more in common with the art of the
calligrapher than with that of the painter.

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