The buildings commissioned by the Mughal emperors were grand and luxurious, but also reflected a practical approach to the harsh Indian climate. Pierced stone screens, known as jali, were used widely in Indian architecture as windows, room dividers and railings. They were often incorporated into external walls, especially those of women’s quarters. The openwork permitted light and air to enter while protecting the interior from both public view and the heat of the sun. Jali screens also created the visually pleasing effect of geometric patterns of light and shade, changing with the time of day.
This delicate red sandstone latticework screen is from Bharatpur in Rajasthan, northern India. It displays a cusped arch within a frame. The arch contains interconnected medallions in a trellis design, each enclosing decorative scrolling and flower heads. This floral design is typical of art produced during the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. In addition to architecture, the motif of a flower within a trellis decorated many objects from the time, including textiles, carpets and manuscripts.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008