Around the turn of the sixteenth century, in Mughal India, artists in the imperial atelier innovated the Mughal equestrian portrait, unique in Asian art although a fusion of Asian and European influences, and quickly ubiquitous as a compositional topos that was identifiably “Mughal” to the extent that it proliferated in the successor states of the Mughal empire over the eighteenth century. Lally’s article analyzes the transformation of the equestrian portrait, using this topos as a set of sources through which to examine changes in kingship and imperial politics from the seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries. Both equines and equestrianism were enmeshed in the fabric of the Mughal empire and its successor states: in foreign trade, in its military practices, in the organization of the hierarchy of the nobility, and in the ritual practices, language, and visual culture of the court. Turning toward the horse as a subject of analysis draws attention toward the entanglement of the human and the non human, of rituals and ritual objects, of gift horses and equestrian portrait gifts, and between pictorial practices, texts, traditions, and trade in shaping the cultural dimensions of imperial politics in South Asia.
Jagjeet Lally; Empires and Equines: The Horse in Art and Exchange in South Asia, ca. 1600-ca. 1850. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2015; 35 (1): 96–116. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2876128
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