Short notes on Qutb Shahi Painting


The prosperity of the Qutb Shahi dominions due to its extensive trade with West Asia coupled with the discovery of the diamond mines provided the necessary incentive for the promotion of this art. In spite of this, it took some time for the Golkonda School to develop.

We have no individual paintings with positive inscriptions of the reigns of Muhammad Quli and Muhammad Qutb Shah.

However, there are a few illustrated manuscripts which in probability belonged to this period. Dr. Z.A. Desai mentions a medical encyclopaedia of Faqir Baba Mirak (A.D. 1572), a book on Shrin Wa Khusro (A.D. 1569), Diwan-i-Hafiz (A.D. 164), and the Diwan of Abdulla Qutb Shah. All these manuscripts are illuminated and help us to know the style of the early painters.


The Persian influence is predominant with lavish use of gold wherever possible whether it is the foreground, the key, the canopies, the dress, utensils or the buildings. The miniatures in Diwan-i-Hafiz depict the palace life of a young prince who is identified to be Muhammad-Quli who ascended the throne when he was hardly fourteen.

All these paintings are colourful, lively, though somewhat crude. There is no Mughal influence at all but the Persian impact even iimmitation is very much evident.

It is in the Diwan of Muhammad Quli that we find the first traces of the Deccani School of painting but still the Persian influence predominates. Unlike the earlier illustrations, we find the name of the painter Qasim Ali-al-Mudhahib.

There are two paintings Prince on Horseback Hawking and An Angel holding big Fish which can definitely be ascribed to the reign of Muhammad Qutb Shah (1612-1626).


Both these paintings display gold decorations, lively colours and rich background which were characteristic of Golkonda School. There is, however, clear indication of the great impact of the Bijapur school.

The Golkonda School of painting reached its peak during the reign of Abdulla Qutb Shah (1626-1672). The early paintings show Persian trait but after 1656 when the Mughals under Aurangzeb got an upper hand, the Mughal influence became apparent.

There are available several paintings of the period in the British Museum, Prince of Wales Museum and other places. They depict certain distinctive features such as “width and monumental quality in spacing the picture, a general sweep in postures, bold workmanship, and lavish use of gold, gorgeous costumes, local atmosphere and the colour scheme” which mark them out from the other Deccani schools as well as Mughal paintings.

The other important development was the production of large size paintings on cotton cloth. Mughal painters were no doubt aware of this art and were producing paintings on cloth but the size of the Golkonda paintings was larger and their conception, too, was different.


Processions, merry-making parties, zenana scenes were the themes of such paitings. They differed from the Mughal paintings in one important respect, to quote Jagdish Mittal “in them the figures are shown in irregu’ar and super imposed rows”.

The Golkonda painters did not use the oil, as the western artists did. Instead they used the traditional “gouache medium”. In the paintings of Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (1672-87) Hindu influences are evident, mainly due to the political influence of Madanna who had become the Prime Minister. The themes of the painters were saints and sufis, the king and nobles, besides processions, etc.

Besides Golkonda, Aurangabad also developed as a centre of painting when it became the headquarter of the Mughal Viceroy of Deccan. Many painters from Golkonda migrated there.

A new style of painting the Mughal-Deccani thus developed. In this style “the lyrical flavour of the Deccan art mingles with the prosaic manner of the Mughals”. Two illustrated manuscript of the period of Aurangzeb were Bahar-i-Danish by Inayatullah and Upadesamala, a Jainwork.


Some of the Rajput generals stationed there also brought the painters from their land. This led to the introduction of some of the features of Rajashthani School of painting which, in its turn, was influenced by Deccani style.

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