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This Indo-Islamic art unit introduces students to Mughal miniature painting
5, 4, 3, 2
Title – Mughal Miniature Painting
By – Rukhe Neelofer Zaidi
Primary Subject – Art
Grade Level – 2-5
- When I designed this unit, some people were confused about its objective. They thought I expect Grade 2-3 students to learn the technique of Mughal miniature painting. I want to clarify here that the purpose of this unit is to
- the students to Mughal miniature painting and not to paint in that style or technique.
Information for Teachers:
- Mughal Miniature Painting is Indo-Islamic miniature painting of court life or the natural world, produced in northern India in the workshops of the Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan (16th-17th centuries). Persian Safavid artists introduced the traditions of miniature painting from Persian art, but the workshops then developed its own unique style, combining Persian and European techniques as well as Hindu and Islamic traditions. Exquisite and meticulously detailed miniatures were painted with great realism in glowing, jewel-like colours. Many paintings were worked on by more than one artist, perhaps one doing the outline, while the other coloured.
- The first workshop was set up by the third Mughal emperor Akbar (reigned 1556-1605) under Safavid printers. He aimed to decrease friction between India’s Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist communities by producing beautifully illustrated histories and mythologies of the various cultures to encourage understanding and toleration. However, the emperor’s atelier soon became more celebrated for its miniatures. Realistic royal portraits were produced, and albums of birds, animals, and flowers were painted for Jehangir, who took over Akbar’s atelier when he died. Mughal miniatures remained popular during Jehangir’s reign, but began to decline under Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1666), as many of the artists began to move to different courts in Rajput and Deccani. (Source:
- To enable the students to:
- recognise and identify three features of Mughal Miniature Painting
- make a landscape in cooperative groups
- print border for a picture by repeating the design using stamps
- visualise and draw scenes illustrating a story
- Oil pastels/markers/coloured pencils
- Poster colours
- Mughal Art
- A4 papers
- oil pastels
- coloured pencils
- white chart papers (cut into half for each group)
- Reproductions of Mughal Miniatures
- poster paints
- trays for colours
- blotting papers
- water pots
- chart paper strips (2 inches wide)
- card paper of 9×11 inches for each student
- Styrofoam sheet
- small empty boxes (match boxes)
- Aesop’s fables
- Prepare colour trays by placing blotting papers in them.
- Draw 2×2 inch squares on A4 paper and have them photocopied for each student to make designs for stamps.
- Cut the Styrofoam into 2″ by 2″ inches square pieces to make stamps.
- Cut chart paper into strips of 2″ inches in width for borders.
- Aesop’s fables printed on half sheet of A4 papers for (each student).
1 – Landscape
- Tell students that in groups they will be making a landscape on half a sheet of white chart paper (or give each student A4 paper and rotate the drawing in a group for everyone to add their own features to it).
- Ensure that each student in the group draws one object e.g. one student makes only animals, the other trees and another buildings, etc.).
- Let them decide in their groups what each of them would like to draw e.g. trees, sky, animals, human figure and birds, etc.
- Show students some miniature landscapes and tell them that these paintings were also painted by more than one artist. They specialized in their fields e.g. one artist would make the hands; one would make the face, the next the tapestry and so on.
- Make sure they
write their names on the backs of their pictures as they would be required to colour it in their next art class.
2 – Landscape
- Show the reproductions of the miniatures again and elicit students’ responses to their observation by asking questions like:
- What is different in this picture from the one that you have made?
- Have the trees in your landscape as many leaves as the trees in this miniature?
- Do you think you have added as many details to your landscape as the artists who painted this miniature?
- Ask the students to colour their landscapes.
3 – Borders for Pictures
Show students some miniature paintings, pointing out the pattern repeated in the borders of these paintings.
- Tell the students that they will be making designs for borders by printing with stamps. Elicit students prior knowledge of ‘stamps’.
- Ask them first to make 4 or 5 designs in 2″ by 2″ inch squares on their drawing papers.
- Tell students to select their final design for printing and copy/trace it on the piece of Styrofoam.
- Ask students to paste these pieces of Styrofoam with designs on them on a small box (e.g. match box) to get a better hold for printing purposes.
- Print repeatedly on paper strips to make borders for their landscapes drawn in the previous art class
- Help students to neatly paste the borders on their landscapes.
4 – 5 – Story Illustration
Show students some illustrations in a storybook and tell them the meaning of illustration (a design or picture in a book, magazine or other print or electronic medium that explains the text or shows what happens in a story).
- Tell students that Mughal miniature paintings were also illustrations depicting battle scenes, court procedures, royal processions etc.
- Give them Aesop’s fables to read in their groups (circulate as many stories in the groups as the time allows).
- Let them select the story they like the best for illustration.
- Ask students to make at least 5 illustrations to describe each story in their group.
- Help each group to paste the story in the middle of the chart paper and the illustrations around it.
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