Wonders of Nature : Ustad Mansur at the Mughal Court

Asok Kumar Das, Marg Publication, 2012, 176 p, col. photographs,, ISBN : 9788192110653, $85.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Wonders of Nature : Ustad Mansur at the Mughal Court

Contents: Preface. 1. Introduction. 2. Baburnama: Mansur's early natural history paintings. 3. Historical paintings and portraits by Mansur. 4. The illumination work of Mansur Naqqash. 5. Wonder of the age: studies of animals and birds. 6. Mansur's flower paintings. 7. The legacy of Ustad Mansur. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index.

Ustad Mansur is considered one of the greatest natural history painters of all time. In his early career in the 1590s he was employed in the atelier of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He excelled in creating exquisite illumination work on the pages of several sumptuously decorated manuscripts commissioned for the court. Soon he was noticed by the emperor's son, Prince Salim, later Emperor Jahangir, with whom he was to work and travel extensively. It was for Jahangir's albums that Mansur painted many of his animal, bird and flower studies that were a blend of naturalism and aesthetic beauty. On a trip to Kashmir he is recorded to have made more than a hundred flower pictures. Unfortunately, most of these are lost exceptions being the famous red tulip and blue iris. Mansur was recognized as the most accomplished natural history painter of his time honoured by Jahangir with the title Nadir ul-Asr or Wonder of the Age.

In spite of his pre-eminence as a painter and illuminator of manuscripts, no biographical information about Ustad Mansur is known, not even the year of his death. The last painting attributed to Ustad Mansur is of a Dodo from Mauritius that was probably presented to Jahangir by the Factors of the British East India Company in 1627, there is no evidence that he worked for Shah Jahan.

This book presents a detailed study of Ustad Mansur's works in different genres, including some never before published. The author has spent several decades in pursuit of his subject, and has personally examined every possible work in museums libraries and private collections. (jacket)   

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