Mughal Sculpture, Decorative Carvings and Mosaic Art
Mughal Sculpture: Mughal Emperor Akbar encouraged the art of sculpture. He had the statues of Jai Mal and Fatha, the Rajput heroes of Chittor, seated on elephants, carved out of stone, and had them placed at the gate of the Agra Fort. The elephant gateway of Fatehpur sikri is still guarded by the mutilated figures of two colossal elephants, perched on supports 12.5 feet high, whose trunks were originally inter-locked across the entrance.
Mughal Emperor Jahangir too had two life-size marble statues of Rana Amar Singh and his son Karan Singh made and erected in the palace garden at Agra below the Jharokha-Darshan. We have no evidence to show that Shah Jahan encouraged the art of sculpture. It is a matter of common knowledge that Aurangzeb was positively against it and the art, therefore, started disappeared for want of patronage.
Decorative Carving : The Mughals were lovers of decorative relief carving and embellished their buildings with this art. The delicate marble carving on the walls of the uppermost terrace of Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra is of 52 different varieties. Besides, the building is embellished with representations of clouds, plants, flowers, butterflies, insects, and a conventional vase design. Relief carving was supposed to be indispensable in high class Mughal buildings. Marble screen work carved in stone was equally fashionable. The marble work in the Taj Mahal, show that in the reign of Akbar and Shah Jahan the artist could produce masterpieces.
Mosaic Art : The mosaic and inlay decoration too were profusely used in the Mughal buildings. In the time of Akbar, the mosaics were made from small tesserae which were combined in Persian geometrical patterns. But in Jahangir’s reign pietra-dura began to be utilized for inlay work. The earliest example of the use of pietra-dura inlay seems to have been made in celebrated Jag Mandir water-palace in the Pichola Lake at Udaipur and the Itmad-ud-daulah’s tomb at Agra. In the time of Shah Jahan pietra-dura superseded the older mosaic ornamentation. Many of Shah Jahan’s buildings in the forts of Delhi and Agra were decorated with pietra-dura inlay. Jahangir’s tomb at Shandara, the Sheesh Mahal in Lahore and the Taj Mahal at Agra are fine examples of the beautiful ornamentation of the pietra-dura art.