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A spotlight on outstanding women artists and their works in the Royal Collection

Mughal artist

A late Mughal album of calligraphy and paintings. c. 1720 - c. 1740

RCIN 1005068

Detail from RCIN 1005068 ©

Detail from RCIN 1005068 ©

During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the Mughal Empire covered most of the Indian Subcontinent.

Mughal paintings of women are often generic likenesses but sometimes certain details of appearance or dress suggest real portraits. Given that male artists were forbidden access to high-status women, portraits of Mughal women were likely painted by, or modelled on a likeness made by, a woman in the zenana (the women’s area of the court).

The images shown here are detailed examples of Mughal female portraits that were pasted into an album of paintings and calligraphy.

The names of five female Mughal painters of the seventeenth century are known. They were probably members of the imperial family or women of very high status. At least one Mughal painting from this era depicts a female artist holding a painting portfolio and many more depict women painting likenesses.