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The History and Evolution of Miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School

The Evolving Styles of Miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School

Rajasthani Miniature painting evolved in many different regions and gave rise to many different styles and schools of painting. But do you know how to differentiate between the paintings of different schools merely by observing them? While there are some similarities in the styles of the Rajasthani school, there are a lot of distinguishing differences as well. Let’s look at the history and evolution of the Miniature paintings of the Jaipur School.

The Jaipur School is part of the Dhundhar School, which comprises the Amber, Jaipur, Uniara, Alwar, and Shekhawati styles of painting.

The Origin of the Jaipur School

miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School
Barahmasa painting of the month of Magha, circa 1700-1725, Amber School
(image source: The British Museum)

The Jaipur School inherited the cultural legacy of the Amber style. The school of Amber started in the early 17th century in the old capital of the state of Amber. In 1728, Jaipur became the new capital, and all artistic activities migrated there. Amber and, subsequently, Jaipur maintained close relationships with the Mughal empire. Jaipur was the first kingdom to allow Mughals into Rajasthan. This cultural exchange led to a lot of art and architecture in Jaipur having strong Mughal influences.

The Amber style was influenced by Rajasthani folk art. It was also conventional, a feature that carried over to the Jaipur school.

History of Jaipur Miniature Painting

miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School
Radha and Krishna Embracing on Terrace , Jaipur School, circa 1830
(image source: @vilasbritto via pinterest.com)

Miniature painting in Jaipur began under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh. Muhammad Shah and Sahib Ram were the principal painters of the Jaipur style. The reign of Jai Singh I marked the use of simple compositions and the delicate portrayal of feminine features. The paintings of this period have clear Mughal influences. Miniature artists began painting women with oval faces in the late 16th century. 

The Jaipur School reached its zenith under Raja Pratap Singh (1779–1803 A.D.). He was a composer, a musician, and a patron of art and literature. He curated the Jaipur atelier with more than 50 miniature artists. This included artists like Gopal, Jiwan, Ramasevak, Hukma, etc., who created many paintings on Ragmalas, festive scenes, court life, Durga-Path, Krishna Leela, and the Bhagvata Purana.

These paintings, though executed with flawless technique, are too conventional and lack spirit or a personal touch. Pratap Singh was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and also commissioned many self-portraits. In this period, the Miniature paintings of the Jaipur School began to show a distinctly Rajasthani style with almost no Mughal influences except a slightly muted colour palette and well-composed backgrounds.

Later, even though the atelier remained active, the paintings diminished in quality and became cheap imitations of their predecessors.

Analysing the Styles of Miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School

miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School
A painting of Emperor Humayun by Ram Gopal, circa 1890 (image source: Victoria and Albert Museum)

The Miniature paintings of the Jaipur School were highly inspired by Mughal miniatures and the copies of the Ramayana and Rayntwma that were produced for Emperor Akbar’s personal use and collected by Jaipur royalty. The Jaipur School produced many life-sized portrait paintings, Ragamalas, astrological themes, erotic themes, mythological narratives, etc. Jaipur miniature artists would use large canvases and brightly ornamented borders. The backgrounds were brought to life with lush and thick decorative tree leaves and dense rolling clouds.

miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School
Painting of a lady with a lamp, c. 1790 (image source: Victoria and Albert Museum)

Like the Mughal school, the Jaipur school also focused on creating accurate representations of human figures in paintings. The women have round faces, long hair, a medium height and figure, and elongated ‘lotus’ eyes, called so because they resemble the shape of a lotus petal. They wore dark-coloured ghagras and elaborate jewellery, as was customary in Rajasthan at the time. Men had stocky bodies with round noses and wore loose pyjamas and high diamond-studded turbans. By the 18th century, the artist had mastered the depiction of the human figure.

A fine line quality and proper use of shading techniques pervade the miniature paintings of the Jaipur School. Artists used deep reds and gold in the margins and also used red, yellow, and white predominantly. The style also developed at various centres that were under the control of powerful aristocratic families related to the Jaipur rulers. It was the most formal of the Rajasthani schools of Miniature Painting.

Themes of Miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School

miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School
Radha and Krishna, Jaipur style Miniature painting, circa 1750 C.E. (image source: National Museum, New Delhi)

The themes of Jaipur Miniature paintings are very varied. These paintings were very popular and somewhat conventional. Nature, royalty, mythological narratives, astrological themes, and erotica were the main subjects of these paintings. The Miniature paintings of the Jaipur School were often commissioned by royalty, and the artists thrived under the patronage of the aristocratic families. A large number of portraits of the Jaipur rulers were discovered, which suggests that the patrons often shaped the themes and narratives of the Jaipur style.

Wedding processions of the kings, royal hunts, and tales of Radha and Krishna were elaborately depicted with pomp and splendour. Mythological themes included tales from the Bhagwat Purana, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Radha and Krishna, etc. The ceremonies and proceedings of the Mughal court and camel fights were also some of the artists’ favourite themes.

Techniques Used in Miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School

Miniature painting using traditional techniques
(image source: Rajasthan Studio)

The artists would prepare natural paints from stone and organic materials. They would add gum to the processed pigments in order to create the right consistency. They would use a mixture of chalk and gum arabic to paint a light wash known as Khadiya. Black was obtained from kohl, lampblack, or by processing almond leaves. The artists used indigo, vermillion, chalk, and guava leaves to make blue, orange, white, and green paint, respectively. They added gold dust to gum and honey to create gold paint. They also used the secretions of the lac insect to create red paint.

In the past, artists used extremely fine squirrel-hair brushes. Today, Jaipur Miniature artists use brushes made from synthetic hair and extremely fine 00 brushes to add details.

The Contemporary Process of Jaipur Miniature Painting

miniature Paintings of the Jaipur School
Ved Pal Sharma would use a sheet to sketch out designs and experiment with rough ideas before adding them to the final piece
(image source: anitachowdry.blog)

The legendary restorer and Miniature artist Ved Pal Sharma would begin by using a diluted solution of water and lampblack to create the sketch. Then he used a pale pink Khadiya wash to add a better finish to the painting. He employed the Persian technique called pardaz to paint minute strokes with diluted paint and build up several layers of pigment. The black lines of the eyes were smudged to make them appear like kohl, and lac paint was applied around the outer corners. 

Ved Pal, or Bannuji, as he was popularly known, was descended from the last royal artist, Mohanlalji. He combined the techniques of Jaipur and Kishangarh styles with free-handed and elegant romanticism to create a unique personal style. His sons, Virendra and Shammi Bannu, are the seventh-generation artists of the Bannu family and continue his legacy. They have won several awards and conduct courses and workshops to keep the art of Miniature painting alive. You can learn Jaipur and Deogarh Miniature painting techniques directly from these master artists by enrolling in Rooftop App’s Miniature Maestro Courses.

Create Jaipur Miniature Paintings With the Rooftop App!

Despite the large number of paintings created in the Jaipur atelier and the variety of themes and subjects it explored, it lacked the finer subtleties of the Kota-Bundi, Bikaner, or Kishangarh schools, nor did it convey the bolder quality observed in Mewar and Marwar. Although it was conventional, it was no doubt extremely beautiful and required a lot of technical skill and finesse.

Are you interested in learning the highly sophisticated and elegant art form of Miniature painting? If you want to create your own Miniature paintings of the Jaipur School, download the Rooftop App from Google Play or the App Store to register for the Maestro Course in Miniature Painting. This course will include not one, not two, but eight diverse Miniature Painting styles taught by experienced master artists.

Follow us on Instagram @rooftop_app for updates on upcoming workshops, events, and courses on traditional Indian art.

By Melissa D’Mello

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