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AKBAR: The Great Emperor of India
Bibliophile price: £17.50
Produced in association with the Fondazione Art Museum of Rome for an exhibition a few years ago, this is a lavishly produced volume on the origins and originality of Indo-Islamic art and architecture. Its Golden Age coincided with that of the Mughal dynasty (1526-1858, although the unitary state ended in 1707) who built an empire larger than present day India by expanding towards Persia, first to Kabul, then Delhi, and later Agra. Akbar (1542-1605) also known as Akbar the Great, was the grandson of Babur, said to have descended from Genghis Khan and Timur. Akbar brought territorial unity to his kingdom and a period of economic prosperity and political and military stability and a deep-seated cultural and spiritual renewal. Yet Akbar remained illiterate, but this did not stop him from developing a taste for the arts - painting, music, literature and architecture at his court. The book comprises various categories and materials ranging from temperas and watercolours embellished with gold, oil paintings and book illustrations, to handcrafted items for everyday use, extremely rare fragments of fabrics, antique carpets, wedding counterpanes, jewellery boxes, chests finely inlaid with ivory, brass and mother of pearl, and combat and parade weapons studded with precious stones or inlaid with ivory, wood and velvet. The exhibition was complemented by the reconstruction of a mosque in Fathpur Sikri reconstructing the furnishings and original objects used at the great Emperor's court. The King places a talisman on his sleeping wife's bosom on page 225, a lady describes her problem to a Maullama on page 224 in the Religion and Myth section, gilded copper, mother of pearl and semi-precious and precious stones adorn a vessel with spout on page 143. In splendid colour and detail, Babur supervising the construction of embankments at a local stream at Istalif 1598 and the construction of Agra Fort a folio from a book, watercolour and gold on paper. The Mughal miniatures are exquisite and many are photographed in close-up detail for closer inspection and understanding. All aspects of human and animal life are depicted in what must be over 400 examples, many full page. With extensive bibliography, extremely useful Catalogue with a small black and white version of the artwork and a full description beneath from pages 234-279. 9¾" x 11", a rare find and published by Skira art publishers.
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