In 2011-12, the prize for the outstanding dissertation on the MA History of Art degree (Single and Combined Honours) was awarded to Emily Hannam.
The dissertation, "From Image to Essence: Akbar and the Evolution of Visual Language in 16th Century India", was given a mark of 81, and is described by Emily below:
The emperor Akbar ruled over northern India from 1556-1605, during which time he patronised the arts on an unparalleled scale. The painters of his imperial atelier worked primarily on the illustration of manuscripts. At various stages in the trajectory of Akbar’s life, there are noticeable shifts in the focus of his interests: adventure stories at first, then historical and religious texts and finally, in his later years, poetry. My paper uses illustrations from three manuscripts, the Hamzanama, the Akbarnama and the Khamsa of Nizami, to exemplify and document these changes. Modern European art historians, like the early European travellers to the Mughal courts, have drawn attention to the apparently ‘Western’ aesthetic values in Mughal painting. My paper proposes a new approach. By examining specific paintings commissioned by Akbar on both the formal and contextual levels, it demonstrates that his artists fashioned new and intelligent ways of constructing form and meaning appropriate to the specific texts the paintings accompany. The result was the creation of a new, highly symbolic visual language that went beyond mere illustration to communicate complex allegorical sentiment.
This article was published on Jun 19, 2012