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Think Small

An exhibition of miniature paintings recreates the Mughal era through intricate detailing and fine craftsmanship

Miniature paintings,which depict a world shrunk by many scales,have been an integral part of India’s history. Bringing this dying form of art to the Capital is an exhibition titled “Miniature II” by Babulal Marotia and Shakir Ali — the former a National Award winner,the latter a Padma Shri — at Art Heritage gallery in Mandi House.

The 50-plus works on display offer viewers a glimpse of the Mughal era. One shows Jahangir surrounded by women,their faces smeared with colour as they celebrate Holi. Marotia,51,had studied several books before recreating this scene from 1625. The women are dressed in traditional attire,some of them play drums and sing while others stand with pichkaris in their hands.

The portraits of Shah Jahan,Jahangir and Bahadur Shah Zafar by Ali reveal the intricately designed jewellery worn by the emperors,their royal attires and even the architecture of the time. “The attention to detail is so acute that even the strands of hair on the beards of these rulers can be seen clearly,” says Jaipur-based Ali. The 58-year-old adds,“Just like earlier times,these paintings use stone colours,made from grinding stones. To paint these minute details,I used brushes made from squirrel hair. Also,the balance of the hand is very important while painting miniatures.”

Seen through magnifying glasses,these miniature paintings reveal a high definition of details and 3D effects. The artists say that this style is in keeping with the style of miniature paintings made during the Mughal era. Designs on carpets and flower motifs on garments emerge with a three-dimensional effect in exhibits,especially in Marotia’s painting of a room where bejewelled courtesans sit around chatting over hookah.

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Ali says,“Mughal miniature painting are the most intricate,detailed and well-defined. It is a pity that,though the Mughal School has its roots in India,there is little awareness of miniature paintings in India. The modern generation does not have the patience to work on such time-consuming paintings. A painting can take between six months and a year to complete.”

The exhibition is on at Art Heritage Gallery,Triveni Kala Sangam,till November 12.

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