Mughal Exhibit: The Jade Terrapin by Jane Senko


Picking just one object to focus on at the Mughal Exhibit was difficult, as there was a vast display of interesting and beautiful works of art. However, there was a particular piece that specifically caught my attention: the Jade terrapin. Located inside one of the smaller cubicles of the exhibit directly at the bottom of the stairs, the terrapin was placed in the center of the room inside a glass case. The terrapin captivated me with its sheer beauty. It is a gorgeous emerald color, and the actual sculpting engraved in the terrapin is amazing. The shell is very detailed, and the sculptor paid very careful attention to all features of the terrapin, down to the perfectly pointed toenails. The terrapin additionally had a very detailed and interesting face, designed with two wide eyes, a triangular nose, and a wide mouth.


The label under the terrapin states that this sculpture is modeled after a three-striped roof turtle. This sculpture is especially significant because the species it is modeled after is native to the Ganges River, which passes through Allahabad, a city located in eastern India. Scholars believe that this terrapin was crafted for Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor, who lived in Allahabad. Jahangir was deeply interested in art, architecture, and nature. Under Jahangir’s rule, the art of Mughal painting greatly developed, mainly as a result of Jahangir’s own interest in art. The delicate sculpture therefore represents both Jahangir’s intense passion for nature, and his great appreciation for art.


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