Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of India, 1556-1658
June 23 - July 1, 2008
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Unit of Study:            Mixed Media Collage/Painting

Lesson Title:             Muraqqa' /Calligraphed Poem (or creative writing) Group Album

Discipline:                 Art, Reading Language Arts

Grade Level:             5th grade

Author:                      Elaine Jones

County:                      Montgomery County, MD

Time Period:              Five 50-minute sessions



This lesson will focus on the Muraqqa' (patchwork) artwork and writings created during the Mughal Dynasties in India. Student-made descriptive writings or poetry will be produced and written in calligraphy alongside the work of art.  The completed pieces will be compiled together in a group album.


The inspiration for this lesson are the Imperial Mughal Dynasty manuscripts of the 16th and 17th centuries called the Muraqqa', the term which came to mean album. The Mughal emperors hailed from Central Asia and established a large empire in India.  The Mughals were originally nomads and these magnificent books proved to be easy to transport.  The Muraqqa' albums which were created in Mughal workshops by highly skilled artisans resulted in rich mélange of pictures and elegantly calligraphic stories and poems that revealed the world at the time of these great rulers.


80 pound white paper; watercolor paper; multi colors of construction paper; various types of paper; wrapping paper; magazines; watercolor paints; a variety of sizes of paintbrushes; "Yes" paste; calligraphy marker pens; calligraphy alphabet (both upper and lower case) hand-outs



Arnold, Caroline and Comora, Madeline. Taj Mal. Minneapolis, MN: Carolroda Books, Inc. 2007
Stronge, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book: 1550-1660. New York: Harry Abrams, Inc. 2002
Wright, Elaine. Muraqqa': Imperial Mughal Albums. Dublin: Chester Beatty Library. 2008.


Standards/Learner Outcomes:

Fine Arts Standards:

Aesthetic 1.2.b Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret, and respond to ideas, experiences and the environment through visual art. Identify and compare ways in which selected artworks represent what people see, feel, know and imagine. Create and describe thematic artwork that communicates stories.  

Historical 2.2.b Students will demonstrate an understanding of visual art as an essential aspect of history and human experience Classify reasons why people create and use art by studying artworks and other sources of information. Identify artistic styles and forms of expression from different times and places.

Production 3.1.a Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art. Create images and forms from observation, memory and imagination. Experiment with media, processes and techniques to convey specific thoughts and feelings.

Criticism 4.1.c Students will demonstrate the ability to identify, analyze, and apply criteria for making aesthetic judgments. Develop and apply criteria to evaluate personally created artworks and the artworks of others. Use established criteria to justify personal responses to works of art.

Content Standards:

Reading Language Arts/Writing 4.2a&b Compose to express personal ideas to develop fluency using a variety of forms suited to topic, audience, and purpose. Describe in prose and poetry by using purposeful imagery and sensory details with active verbs and colorful adjectives.


Fine Arts Objectives:

The student will identify what a Muraqqa' is. The student will construct a mixed media composition.
The student will respond to a variety of two-dimensional designs by identifying ideas and themes expressed by artists.
The student will use and clean art materials appropriately. The student will describe and share their artwork.

Content Objectives:

The student will compose a poem or creative writing piece that describes or is inspired by their artwork.


Mughal Dynasty, Muraqqa', manuscript, mixed media, collage, calligraphy, creative writing.


The students will be introduced to the topic of Mughal Dynasties by having the children's book, Taj Mahal read to them.  This richly illustrated book with a high interest topic such as the Taj Mahal will serve as a springboard for discussion of India during the time of the Mughal emperors.  The book is laid out in the same patchwork layout of the Muraqqa', with the illustrations and text consisting of numerous patternpieces of paper pasted around them. Throughout the discussion and work period a CD of Indian music will be playing and visuals of Indian artwork will be displayed.

Scope & Sequence:

Teacher Directed:

Day 1  Teacher will read Taj Mahal to the class for introduction to Indian culture and to loosely exhibit the layout of the Muraqqa' manuscripts.  A slideshow of examples of the folios from the Mughal albums will follow. Categories of possible topics will be brainstormed in a discussion.  A list will be generated through the discussion with entries such as: portraits, landscapes, hunting exhibitions, gardens, animals etc. included on it for directions to take in the rough draft.  The rubric for the project will be reviewed and discussed.

Day 2  Teacher will demonstrate the process of watercolor washes for the background of their paintings.  A demonstration of dry brush techniques will follow when the watercolor wash background has dried.

Day 3  The collage component will be discussed and demonstrated.  All artwork will have the patchwork border behind the composition and a demonstration will show the gluing process of painting the paste onto the back of the painting. The possibility of collaged materials within the painting will also be exhibited.  The poem and creative writing will also be introduced.  Examples of Indian poetry and writings that could reflect the topic of the artwork will be shown to the students.  The rubric for the writing component will be presented.

Day 4  A demonstration of calligraphy will show students how to hold the calligraphy pen and form the letters will begin day four.

Day 5  The teacher will fold five or six full sheets of paper to house four folios and their accompanying creative writing in.  These group manuscripts will be displayed and critiqued with the rubric expectations in mind.

Guided Practice:

Day 1  Students will create two rough drafts for compositions they will paint in watercolors. Teacher will circulate and assist students in this process. 

Day 2  After choosing their best composition, students will lightly sketch in pencil their design on watercolor paper.  They can choose to paint all of the main objects onto the painted background or they might prefer to collage all or some of the objects on the scenery. Teacher will circulate and help students as needed in the painting process. 

Day 3  The collage framework will be added with teacher assisting in adding heavy books on top of the piece to press the collage firmly to the patchwork border.  The teacher will also help the students to brainstorm topics for the creative writing assignment that will highlight their Muraqqa'.

Day 4  Students will practice writing their creative writing with the calligraphy pen.  Teacher will work one-on-one with students struggling with any aspect of the writing.

Day 5  Students will be encouraged to reflect on both the visual and literary works on display.

Independent Practice:

Day 1  Students will develop and refine their sketches for possible compositions.

Day 2  The painting portion of the project will be undertaken by the students.

Day 3  Any incomplete painting will be finished and the collaged border will be added to the artwork along with any other cutout details the student wishes to add.  Rough drafts of creative writing or poetry will begin its first stage of development.

Day 4  The poetry or creative writing will be completed and several practices with the calligraphy pen will be made before writing out the prose on good white paper.

Day 5  Any unfinished work will be completed at the beginning of this class period.  Students will assess their own two finished interrelated artworks with the previously presented rubrics.

Rubrics completed by the teacher and by the student. 
Muraqqa Rubric:
__Student created an interesting muraqqa design that fills the composition.
__Student painted the background with a transparent watercolor wash.
__Student painted concentrated painted details with a dry brush.
__ Student collaged details (optional) in the painting and a border that compliments their painting that it frames. 
4 = O, 3&2 = S, 1&0 =N


The class critique will display both the painting and the creative writing together.  Discussions of techniques used by the artist and personal responses will be generated in the critique.

Upon reflection, I’ve concluded that this lesson needs to be condensed. The creative writing will be composed in their reading language arts class and then written with a calligraphy pen in art class.


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