Birth Images of Ghazan and Timur: Vessels of Memory for the Mughals | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


Illustrated manuscripts, collected and owned by shahs, sultans and emperors during the reigns of Ilkhanid, Timurid, Safavid and Mughal dynasties, were highly valued objects. Carefully produced by a team of accomplished artists, calligraphers, book binders and gilders, who created these magnificent objects in a system of shared work at imperial kitabkhānās (ateliers), illustrated manuscripts became symbols of status and connoisseurship among royal subjects. Being portable in nature, these books travelled long distances and remained in use over several centuries, increasing in fame and value upon being stamped with the prestige and power of subsequent owners. In the sixteenth century, owing to a dense traffic of images and ideas between Timurid Central Asia and Mughal India, several rare and valuable illustrated manuscripts arrived in the sub-continent and were maintained in the Mughal imperial library. A conversation between images created in earlier Ilkhanid and Timurid periods with images produced in Mughal ateliers, will not only enable an insight into historical conditions prevalent during their respective ages, but also provide a window into the cultural, social and political ideas and concerns of the times. Applying art historian Aby Warburg’s notion of social memory to analyse artworks as repositories of history, my paper will examine a few images, particularly “birth” images, contained in illustrated manuscripts to trace the cultural transfer from Central Asia to India, in an attempt to perceive the significance of particular events, episodes and genres which expressed a shared cultural heritage with Timurid ancestry, and were favoured by Mughals for shaping their dynastic identity.


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