Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of India, 1556-1658
June 23 - July 1, 2008
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Unit of Study:          Social Studies/Visual Arts

Lesson Title:            The Inference of Power in the Mughal Portraits, India

Discipline:                Social Studies/Visual Arts

Grade Level:            6th Grade

Author:                     Judith Crawford

County:                     Prince George’s County, MD

Time Period:
           3 class periods, 30 minutes each


The students will be introduced to The Mughal Dynasties in India, 16th to mid 19th century, comparing and contrasting that culture with our culture of today.  We will observe and illustrate a portrait from The Mughal Albums as well as view portraits from our era and environment,  discussing the use of symbols and creating our self portrait.       


Teachers Need To Know: In India during the 16th-18th centuries, the Mughal Emperors assembled hundreds of artists to paint their portrait, boast their reputation, and to leave a positive record for future generations.  The paintings always presented the Emperor as a wealthy, brave and heroic person.  The frames included poetry and or animals and flowers to further his reputation.

Students will have learned:

  • The location of one’s environment affects the cultural and economic conditions of every day life.
  • The difference between our present day environment and that of India in the 16 to 18th century. (compare and contrast).
  • Portraits can be used to manipulate the viewer.


Several sketch papers approximately 5x7”, 2 white heavy drawing papers 8x10”, 1 velvet paper, skin color, 8x10”, pencils, thin sharpie markers, art stix, skin colored crayons, floral printed paper, scissors, glue stick, gold colored markers.



a) Fine Arts Standards – 3.0 Creative Expression and Production - Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.

b) Geography 3.0 – Students will use geographic concepts and processes to examine the role of cultural, technology and the environment in the location and distribution of human activities and spatial connections throughout time.


The student will be able to:
  a) Fine Arts

  • Draw a profile of a person, as well as the correct body proportions.  
  • Discuss the inferences in a work of art.                                                                                      
  • Incorporate appropriate clothing relative to one’s climate.
  • Use different media to produce appropriate work.

  b) Geography 

  • Locate the continent of India with the Tropic of Cancer, Tropic Of Capricorn, and The Equator.
  • Discuss the physical characteristics and how it influenced activities, such as agriculture and dress.


Inference, Mughal, India, album, Emperor, nature, self-portrait, portrait, profile, symbols, illustrate.


Project several portraits in The Power Point.   
What do you see? 
Guide the conversation to include inference, nature, profile.


Teacher Directed: 

  • Where is India?  Display map in power point, discuss Equator, Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. What is the environment and what some of these effects? (agriculture, clothing, economic).  Explain that there are over 100 different languages spoken in this one country. Discuss the effects.  The Emperor was the absolute power during this period. Who is the most powerful person in our country?  How does he gain this power?
  • Introduce The Mughal Dynasty and how the leaders hired artists to illustrate albums and portraits, portraying positive images of the Emperors. These were put into albums.  What is an album?  Do you have a family album?  Compare the differences. 
  • Project several portraits of The Emperors.  Guide the conversation to include nature, and profile.  Show several portraits from our country (NGA website).

Guided Practice: 

  • Explain that we will observe and illustrate the portrait of the Emperor Jahangir. 
  • Using their sketch paper the students will follow the teacher’s illustration on the board with a step by step demonstration drawing the side profile and body, completing by tracing with a black sharpie. 
  • Students will then add the clothing, jewelry and weapons.
Independent Practice: 
  • 1st Class:  After the practice sketch, the students will reproduce the same portrait on the heavy white drawing paper, adding clothing, jewelry and weapons, finishing by tracing with a sharpie.   Using Art Stix colors, the students will fill in their drawing, emphasizing the process of layering colors, one on top of another.  Students will use skin color crayons for the body parts.

  • 2nd Class:  Students will complete their first portrait by choosing, cutting and gluing a floral border to their portrait  and coloring the negative area behind the Emperor. We will discuss what is important in their lives (family, religion, sports).
    Homework assignment is to list 5 symbols that describes who you really are.  What if you grandchild 50 years from now, finds this self portrait?  What will that person know about you?
  • 3rd Class:  Students will sketch their self portrait incorporating symbols which they thought about for homework.  It is impossible in this class to accurately observe one’s profile, so it will be an estimate.  When finishing the sketch, they will add symbols, environmental appropriate clothing, coloring and adding a border.


Both portraits by individual students will be exhibited together. 
After installation, we will discuss the students’ work and the project.

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Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education