Exploring Color in Mughal Paintings


[MUSIC PLAYING] In the mid-1600s,
Rembrandt created a series of drawings
inspired by the elegant style of imperial Mughal
paintings, especially those made at the court
of his contemporary, the emperor Shah Jahan. Painters working for
the Mughal emperors perfected this vibrantly
colorful art form in the late sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Mughal paintings were made
on cotton fiber-based paper. Artists used an
opaque paint made of powdery pigment and
water, bound with gum arabic. The paint was applied using
brushes of squirrel or kitten hair. A painting was either
completed by a single artist or made in a workshop, in which
one artist drew the composition and painted the main subjects,
and others added details. After a painting was
completed, the surface was burnished with
an agate, a gemstone. This friction generated
heat and pressure, giving the colors added
depth and luminosity. [MUSIC PLAYING] Mughal artists used a
rich orange-red pigment called vermilion, or cinnabar,
made from the mineral mercury sulfide. A vivid blue, now
called ultramarine, was made from lapis lazuli,
mined in Afghanistan. Bright yellow was made using
an arsenic-based pigment called orpiment. Another type of
yellow, Indian yellow, was made from the urine of cows
that had been fed mango leaves. Green was either a mix of
ultramarine and orpiment, or consisted of
verdigris, a pigment made from copper
treated with vinegar. Mughal artists used a chalky
white paint made from lead, or ground-up shells,
and lampblack, which comes from charcoal or soot. Luxurious metallic paints were
derived from gold and silver powders. Purplish hues were made from the
secretions of the lac beetle. Eventually, Mughal
painting shifted away from the courts of emperors,
and its practice spread. It developed into regional
styles across the Indian subcontinent, and also
inspired European artists… like Rembrandt. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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