Like a Garden Bedecked

Floral Margins in 18th century Awadhi Albums produced for European Patrons

Eighteenth-century Persianate Albums Made in India: Audiences – Artists – Patrons and Collectors

Berlin, 15–17 September 2021
An international workshop at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst and the Museum für Islamische Kunst, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

For the full programme, click here.

The Workshop will be held as a blended format with a mix of online and on-site presentations at the Museum of Asian Art and the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin.
To join the event online, please click here (Time listed is CEST – Central European Summer Time):
DAY 1 (15 Sept): 3.00 pm – 6.20 pm         

DAY 2 (16 Sept): 9.30 am – 4.30 pm

DAY 3 (17 Sept): 9.45 am – 3.30 pm


Floral margins first appeared in Mughal’s albums under the patronage of Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), concomitantly or shortly after the first documented attempts by the painter Mansur to draw plants from nature, during a trip to Kashmir in Spring 1621. From there, marginal floral forms in 17th century albums produced for imperial patrons evolved fast until the beginning of the 18th century when they seemed to go out of fashion.

Floral margins made a big come back in the middle of the 18th century in Faizabad and Lucknow, where two productions need to be distinguished. Numerous pages with similar floral margins scattered in collections around the world, result from a standardised production of album pages produced for an anonymous market. Despite the famous name attached to it, the Small Clive Album in the Victoria and Albert Museum is a prime example of this production. Some of these standardised margins, based on the repetition of a few botanical elements, were also mounted in albums made for European collectors settled in India, such as Jean-Baptiste Gentil, Warren Hastings, Archibald Swinton and Antoine-Louis Polier. These patrons gathered numerous albums adorned with various floral margins, some taking precedent over the central field. While Gentil, Hastings and Swinton’s albums were stylistically close to Faizabad and Lucknow standardised productions, Polier’s album margins showed a virtuosity that drew inspiration from various sources, reflecting the refined taste of the collector and his connection with the East India Company.

This contribution considers the development of floral margins from the 17th century to the 18th century Awadhi productions in the Museum fur Asiatische Kunst and the Museum für Islamische Kunst . Tracing the evolution of marginal floral designs, it aims to highlight the structural and decorative roles of floral margins through the analysis of the preserved material and primary sources.