An Introduction to the Elegance of Mewar Miniature Paintings
Rajasthan, the land of kings, is also known as the birthplace of the Rajasthani School of Miniature painting. The earliest style of Miniature painting, developed in the Mewar Miniature paintings of Rajasthan.
The diverse schools of Miniature painting all have certain characteristics that define their distinctive styles. In this blog, we will explore the stylistic evolution of Mewar Miniature paintings and their varied themes and motifs.
The Place of Origin
The Mewar school of painting derives its name from its place of origin, the Mewar province. Chittor, Udaipur, and Nathdwara were the major centres of the production of Mewar Miniatures.
Each of these places has contributed to the development of different substyles of the Mewar school, with artists drawing inspiration from the local landscapes and cultures.
The Mewar School is categorised into Deogarh, Pratapgarh, and Nathdwara, each constituting a part of the broader Mewar group. Mewar Miniatures include religious motifs from Gujarat Jain traditions, tales of Radha-Krishna, Vaishnavas, Srinathji, and more.
Alongside the local style, one can also spot elements of Mughal art present in these paintings. The fusion of these religious and artistic influences makes Mewar Miniature paintings truly unique.
Early Mewar Miniature Paintings and their Stylistic Evolution
The Supasanachariyam and Suparsanatham manuscripts (1423 A.D.) show traces of the Mewar style; however, the Mewar school did not develop a distinct style until the 16th century.
Early Mewar Miniature paintings show influences of Gujrati Jain manuscript painting, or the Apabhramsa style, through stylistic similarities like saturated colour palettes and wide, protruding eyes.
The earliest documented Mewar miniatures are a Ragamala series by Nisaruddin that dates back to 1605. It is known as the Chawand Ragmala, after its place of origin.
The themes in the early stages of its development centred around religious themes, but as the school evolved, artists began painting more portraits of the rulers and aristocracy.
Mewar Miniature Paintings: Inspirations and Sub-Schools
These miniatures display more Rajput influences once the Rajputs took over the settlements of the Bhil and Mina tribal communities. During 1614–1615, the Rajput rulers signed a peace treaty with the Mughals.
This led to a free exchange of ideas and an increased Mughal influence on the Mewar style. The Rajput ruler Jagat Singh I was a great patron of the arts and commissioned many manuscripts, historical and poetic texts, and miniature paintings.
Understanding the Art
Human figures in Mewar Miniatures have sharp noses, oval or rounded faces and elongated almond-shaped eyes. Artists would draw women shorter than men. In Mewar Miniature paintings, men wear loose garments and embroidered turbans, whereas women wear long ghagra-cholis and transparent odhnis or dupattas.
The translucent fabric is adorned with light floral prints, which add detail and depth to the paintings.
Mewar miniatures contain bright and vibrant colours and a mix of brilliant warm and cool colour palettes. The lush vegetation and breathtaking landscapes of Mewar form most of the backgrounds of these miniature paintings.
Scenic beauty takes precedence over architectural depictions. The artists of Mewar drew mountains and hilly terrain in the Persian style.
Styles and Central Motifs
The Mewar School began evolving under the patronage of the Sisodia dynasty. While many Indian miniature painting traditions tend to focus on mythological or historical themes, Mewar Miniature paintings also capture the essence of everyday life in the region.
This includes depictions of local trades, agricultural activities, and the daily routines of the people, providing valuable glimpses into the socio-cultural aspects of Mewar.
European Company paintings and Kutch mounted prints began to influence the various schools of Rajasthani miniature painting in the 19th century. In the latter half of the 19th century, there was a brief artistic change due to visits by British artists like William Carpenter, Val Prinsep, and Marianne North.
By then, court painting had already been on the decline due to the popularity of photography and was eventually replaced by it. However, there are still some artists who continue to paint in the traditional Rajasthani Miniature styles.
The Importance of Mewar Miniature Paintings
The majestic Miniature paintings of Mewar are a testament to its rich culture and natural environment. These paintings serve as windows to the past, offering a glimpse into the artistic and cultural evolution of the region. They also offer a unique insight into the lives of the people of ancient Rajasthan.
Do you want to explore the unique style of Mewar Miniature paintings? You can explore all the schools of Rajasthani Miniature painting in detail through Rooftop’s Miniature Maestro Course.
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By Melissa D’Mello