This oval ivory miniature shows the interior of the Jami Masjid, India’s largest mosque. A workforce of 5000 built it between 1644 and 1656, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. This painting dates from about 1850, some two hundred years later.
The practice of painting on ivory in India has a long history. However, Indian artists only began to paint large numbers of portraits on ivory in the 18th century, as a result of British influence. At this time a number of professional British miniaturists visited India, and their work reintroduced the technique to Indian artists. Painting on ivory was especially popular in Delhi and reached its peak during 1840 to 1880. The enormous output of paintings on ivory during these years was clearly intended for the British market. They therefore fall into the category of Company Paintings, named after the East India Company.