16 Unbelievably Elaborate Indian Miniature Paintings

16 Unbelievably Elaborate Indian Miniature Paintings

Indian miniature painting is one of the world’s most impressive artistic disciplines. As the name suggests, it involves painting images onto implausibly tiny canvases, often no larger than a few centimetres in width and height. If you’ve never seen a miniature painting before, you’ll be stunned by the level of detail involved. Individual leaves on trees and hairs on human heads are clearly defined on paintings no larger than train tickets.

Although the style was “invented” between the 11th and 12th centuries, when artists illustrated religious palm leaf manuscripts with miniature paintings, it wasn’t until the rise of the Mughal Empire (16th-19th century) that the miniature style really came to the fore. Akbar the Great, Mughal Emperor from 1542 to 1605, brought together more than 100 artists to form the Mughal School of Miniature Painting, responsible for many of India’s greatest miniature masterpieces.

Miniature painting is still alive and well throughout much of India today, particularly in Rajasthan, where many miniature painting schools (often combined with gift shops for tourists) continue to operate. Anyone considering a life as a miniature painter should think carefully however. Training starts at a young age, for as middle age looms, the 20-20 vision and steady hand necessary, start to deteriorate. It takes years of practise, dedication to a strict technique and, perhaps worst of all, abstinence from all stimulants, including caffeine!

1. Radha Krishna with Gopini Holding Ektara (height 35cm) [2009]

Radha krishna with gopini holding ektara
Image: Dolls of India

2. Peacock on Gold (height 1.4cm) [Modern]

Peacock on gold

3. Indra on Airavata (height 18cm) [Modern]

Indra on airavata

4. Ragamala Scene of Acrobats (height 32cm) [18th-19th century]

Ragamala scene of acrobats
Image: Hurst Gallery

5. Portrait of Raja Brajraj (height 16cm) [Kangra, 1781]

Portrait of raja brajraj
Image: Hurst Gallery

6. Siva and Parvati on a Terrace [18th century]

Siva and parvati on terrace
Image: The Guardian

7. Rajasthani Lady [Modern]

Rajasthani lady
Image: Jodhpur Collections

8. Ten Gurus [circa 1882]

Ten gurus
Image: The Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh

9. Lady With a Lotus [18th century]

Lady with lotus
Image: The Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh

10. Guru Gobind Singh Ji [circa 1815]

Guru gobind singh ji
Image: The Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh

11. Musician Entertaining a Lady [circa 1750]

Musician entertaining a lady
Image: The Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh

12. Radha and Krishna in Discussion [circa 1730]

Radha krishna
Image: The Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh

13. Kakhuba Ragini [18th century]

Kakhuba ragini

14. Indian Gypsies [2002]

Indian gypsies
Image: Davidson Galleries

15. Ragamala [circa 1650]


16. Darbar of Gods and Mortals [19th century]

Darbar of gods and mortals
Image: Hurst Gallery

About the author:

Tom is a freelance writer, living and working in North London. Fascinated by art, design and gadgets, he spends much of his time writing and blogging on these subjects. His other interests lie in music, film, fashion, football and generally enjoying life!

jump to the comment form ↓

  • User Gravatar Frank1223
    May 11th, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Tom, the colours in the Ten Gurus image are inverted. One click correction in Photoshop, fortunately.

Share your thoughts, leave a comment!

(get your own gravatar)