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Moguls Collecting Mughals, a Study of Early Twentieth-Century European and North American Collectors of Islamic Book Art

Citation: Winslow, Karen (2023) Moguls Collecting Mughals, a Study of Early Twentieth-Century European and North American Collectors of Islamic Book Art. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

Karen Winslow Moguls Collecting Mughals.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

In the early twentieth century, there was renewed interest in Islamic book art collecting, including works commissioned or collected by Mughal rulers. Most collectors were wealthy businessmen residing in Europe and North America — hence the title: Moguls collecting Mughals. Beyond being catchy, the title signifies the inflexion point when elite European and North American collectors began to appreciate the unique qualities of Mughal art, no longer viewing it as an inferior, provincial offshoot of Persian art or as a subcategory of Indian art. A starting hypothesis was that similar dynamics were at hand in forming the Persian and Mughal art canons but that the works prompted different codes of connoisseurship. In particular, it was thought that the European elements that scholars and dealers were so apt to point out in Mughal art altered the perception of the art form. However, the results of this thesis suggest a more complex picture, with the Mughal canon struggling to come into its own (perhaps because it was not seen as exotic as Persian art), and it did not emerge as a stand-alone canon worthy of attention until the second half of the twentieth century. The collectors studied include John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869-1955), and Morgan’s librarian Belle da Costa Greene (1883-1950). Each collector was analysed using various theoretical frameworks, including consumer behaviour modelling, to identify the variables relevant to forming and managing their collections. The technique identified each collector’s collecting personality, motivations for collecting, information input sources and evaluation criteria. While each modern collector had very different collecting strategies, the result was virtually the same — with works considered masterpieces by Mughals re-assembled in European and American libraries. The efforts of these collectors, combined with exhibitions and scholarship, laid the groundwork for the Mughal art canon as it is known and studied today.

Creators: Winslow, Karen and
Subjects: English
Keywords: History of the book, Manuscript studies, Manuscript collections, Islamic manuscript collections, Manuscript collectors, Islamic manuscript collectors, Islamic manuscripts, Mughal manuscripts, Mughal art, Mughal book art, John Pierpont Morgan, Charles Lang Freer, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, Belle da Costa Greene
Divisions: Institute of English Studies
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 18 July 2023 (accepted)


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