Stemming from Central Asia the Islamic Mughal Dynasty (1526-1858) is among the longest-living and most powerful dynasties of India. By the 17th century, the dynasty's reign already spanned across virtually the entire Indian Subcontinent. This period gave birth to some of the Islamic world's most beautiful gardens.
The Mughal's fondness of civilized nature is reflected not only in their gardens and palaces but rather in almost all of their arts. This exhibition presents 170 masterworks of royal workshops: silver-inlaid metalwork, jades, glasswork and crystals, filigree ivory carvings, precious jewelry and colorful textiles all document both the various ways of portraying botanical motifs as well as a certain sensibility reaching out to like-minded souls.
The exhibition is culled from significant German private collections and three of the Collections of the State Museums of Berlin. This marks the first time that the public is offered such an exquisite and plentiful selection of Berlin's Indo-Islamic and rajput art treasures in a single comprehensive exhibition.
A high degree of naturalism is characteristic of Mughal art. This is especially apparent in delicate miniatures which represent a high point in Islamic painting. Even with this genre, gardens are ever-present. However, in the 17th century, such motifs merely serve as background scenery: for courtly ceremonies, genre scenes, often with amorous details, and especially for portraits.
By the 18th century the garden finally receives more attention as an artistic subject itself. Paintings from this period portray precise representations of famous gardens. In particular, Emperor Shah Jahan's (reign: 1628-1658) monument for his favorite wife, the Taj Mahal, the most famous of so-called garden monuments, elicited extraordinary fascination from painters of the 18th century. A special interest in architecture is reflected in the artistic approach to this subject matter: Painters concentrated on architectural and decorative details, created central perspective views or simply portrayed the layout of the garden. The first comprehensive series of architectural and garden depictions were commissioned and the Museum für Indische Kunst possesses one of the most famous examples of such art. With such paintings and exceptional large-scale representations of the Taj Mahal on textiles, the subject of Indo-Islamic gardens comes full circle. These are the prototypes of the "Pleasure Gardens and Garden Tombs" of the Mughal period.