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Islamic Art: Comparison of Cultural and Religious Art Forms

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Islamic art comprises of cultural and religious art forms that subject to a wide range of geographical influences. The purpose of this paper is to study four different artists to identify their signatures and attributions in two museums. The two museums that I chose is The Metropolitan Museums of Arts (MET) and the Chester Beatty Library (CBL). From the MET Museum, I chose to discuss artists Govardhan and Nanha. From the CBL, I will discuss artist Dharm Das and calligrapher Ja’ far al-Baysunghuri.

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Based on The MET website, Govardhan is a portrait painter who works attributed to the Mughal emperor. In Figure 1, Govardhan inscribed his name in Persian along with the left folio. The calligrapher, Sultan’ Ali Mashhadi, signed his name and location of the production of the artwork on the right folio. Looking at other works by Govardhan from the website, it showed that Govardhan inscribed his name on every first folio of his portraits paintings. The site also describes how Govardhan studied with one of Akbar’s greater masters, Basawan.

The second artist, Nanha, is an Indian miniature painter who produced manuscript paintings for the Mughal ruler, Bhim Kanwar (Figure 2). The artist signed his name in Persian on the left folio and a calligrapher slave, named Ali’, also signed his name on the lower-left corner. The artist inscribed Shahi poetry onto the verses along with the right folio of the artwork. The museum catalogue does not go in-depth with the artist characteristics, as it focuses on the subject of the composition. However, the catalogue provides a detailed visual analysis of the illuminations.

From the CBL, the two artists that I chose is Dharm Das and Ja’ far al-Baysunghuri. The first painting (Figure 3) is by Indian miniature artist Dharm Das and calligrapher Muhammad Husayn Kashmiri, who inscribes the folios at Agra, India. The court historian and minister Abu’l-Fazl ‘ Allami composed the book. Unfortunately, the catalogue does not go in-depth about the artists, as it only provided explanations of the history of the subjects within the artwork.

The calligrapher Ja’far al-Baysunghur produced a detached folio (Figure 4) dedicated it to the Timurid prince Baysunghur. Poetry from the poet Sa’ di, is found within the folios. The museum entry does not illustrate where the placement of the artist signature. Still, it describes the production place and four other court painters who contributed to the illustrations without their signatures.

In conclusion, each museum website provided a summary of the artwork and artists. Finding the desired artist was quite a challenge as there are a lot of other artists who have produced more work than the one that I have chosen. Each museum has distinctive catalogue formats. Such as the MET catalogue is much more descriptive than the CBL since the MET website provides the exact placement of the artist signature and inscriptions. The CBL does provide a well descriptive catalogue, but it lacks the understanding of the artists and mainly focuses on the history of the subject in the artworks. Each manuscript consists of one or more signature on each folio as there is more than one artist that contribute to the making of the composition. 

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