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Art of the past: The Nativity of Christ, Late Mughal, mid-18th century

LiveMint logoLiveMint 22-09-2017 Tanuj Kumar

What: A late Mughal miniature, painted on paper, depicting the birth of Christ. Made during the reign of Muhammad Shah, it is one of the many Indian paintings inspired by biblical themes.

Style: The work is richly decorated, using ornate floral patterns throughout, from the blue border and the golden pillar to the figures’ clothing. The Mughals, after their encounters with Europeans, borrowed Christian imagery for their paintings, which resulted in a beautiful amalgamation of two different traditions. Here, baby Jesus—with a tilak on his forehead—could almost pass for a Krishna if observed in isolation.

Look closer: Notice the four fingers holding the curtain back, painted somewhat awkwardly by the artist, giving it an appearance of a disembodied hand floating mid-air.

This is the last in a six-part series introducing our picks of antique art and sculpture from the National Museum, Delhi.

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