Mir Sayyid Ali (b. 1510; d. after 1572)
Considered by scholars as one of the founders of the Mughal school of painting in India, Mir Sayyid Ali was a Persian emigrant who moved to India in 1555. The son of a renowned artist of the Safavid school, Mir Musawwir of Soltaniyeh, Ali was born in Tabriz, Iran, most probably in c. 1510. He was invited by the Mughal emperor Humayun who first met Ali at the court of Shah Tahmasp where he was seeking refuge after an Afghan revolt.
As one of the first Safavid artists to arrive in India, Ali held a high position within the Mughal atelier of painters. After Humayun’s death when Akbar took the throne, he continued in this post; during this period he continued developing the style of Mughal painting. Ali was responsible for directing the illustration of the Hamzanama between 1562 and 1572. His surviving work predates his arrival in India and showcases his skills of delicate brushwork and compositions reflecting his attention to detail. Historians have noted that he would be observant to things such as beards or clothes which were depicted with great precision. Later, in a painting that is considered by scholars as Ali’s self-portrait, he demonstrated a new style, characterised by more vigorous and animated lines. Painted in opaque watercolour, gold and ink on paper, the self-portrait is likely to have been created between 1555–56.
Ali is believed to have died in the latter half of the sixteenth century while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Other records state that he was in Akbar’s court during the time of his demise.
Binyon, Laurence. “A Painting of Emperors and Princes of the House of Timur: Reconsiderations.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 54, no. 310 (1929): 16–22. http://www.jstor.org/stable/863952.
Britannica. “Mir Sayyid Ali.” Accessed December 10, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mir-Sayyid-Ali.
Dimand, Maurice S. “Mughal Painting under Akbar the Great.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, no. 2 (1953): 46–51. https://doi.org/10.2307/3257529. https://www-jstor-org.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/stable/pdf/3257529.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ab4d4c532d3e856b0ac60521850cbd87a.
Google Arts and Culture. “Mir Sayyid Ali.” Accessed December 10, 2021. https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/mir-sayyid-ali/m0v3ggz1?hl=en.
Google Arts and Culture. “Five Great Masters of Indian Miniature Painting.” Accessed December 10, 2021. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/five-great-masters-of-indian-miniature-painting/TQVROMtZxzvqlw?hl=en.
Grabar, Oleg, and Mika Natif. “Two Safavid Paintings: An Essay in Interpretation.” Muqarnas 18 (2001): 173–202. https://doi.org/10.2307/1523307. https://www-jstor-org.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/stable/pdf/1523307.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A0a264d1fcaf513182898397b35e5ed1e.
The British Museum. “Mir Sayyid Ali.” Accessed December 10, 2021. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG12024.