Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of India, 1556-1658
June 23 - July 1, 2008
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Unit of Study:            Kitabkhana - “The Artists’ Workshop”

Lesson Title:              Lesson I: Master and Apprentice  (Four 60-minute classes)
                                    Lesson II: The Commission  (Two 60-minute classes)
                                    Lesson III: Functioning as a Workshop  (Two 60-minute classes)

Discipline:                  Art and Social Studies

Grade Level:              3rd Grade

Author:                      Mary Mark Munday

County:                      Carroll County, MD

Time Period:              Eight 60-minute classes



How is an artistic treasure made today? If more than one person works on a piece of art is it original and unique? We assume that like the present, artists always worked individually to produce their art, their product. Historically the self-determining individual is a very new concept of artistic production.

Several hundred years ago being hired and paid by a wealthy patron to make what they ordered was the only way an artist could work and survive. In India, during the Mogul Empire of the 15th - 17th century artistic production took place in elaborate workshops of many artists, each specializing in one technique that contributed to the production whole of a significant work of art, like a book, or piece of jewelry.

This unit explores the process and relationships of students, working as individuals or pairs, to produce one component of a complex, whole masterpiece. As a workshop member, the paradigm could be tested and applied to many types of artistic products. Individual satisfaction comes now from being an elite member of a whole, and contributing to something publicly displayed and valued. Comparing this production system to assembly line factory-made goods can raise aesthetic and economic awareness.

 Unit Overview:

Lesson I: Master and Apprentice
Learning Skills for the Atelier
Measuring, Calligraphy, drawing, inking, painting, gilding
(Four 60-minute classes)

Lesson II: Working as an Atelier
“The Commission”
Group division into individual tasks to complete the commissioned work.
(Two 60-minute classes)

Proposed Future Lessons:                                   

Lesson III: Production and Art                                   
Comparing Past and Present Models                  
(Two 60-minute classes)                                    
Lesson IV: Producing Musical Performance
Instruments as “Sound Jewels”
Found-object, Mixed Media Sculpture
(Four 60-minute classes)
Lesson V: Album of Paintings
Depicting our School, inspired by Mughal Muraqqa
Photography, Collage, Drawing, Painting
(Six 60-minute classes)


The Artist Workshop/Atelier of Mughal India had historic precedents and parallels in neighboring Safavid Iran and Ottoman-ruled Turkey. In the mid 16th century some great Persian and Arab artists came to the rich Mughal court. Patronage played a role: Persian Emperor and connoisseur, Shah Tamasp reduced commissions for painted illustrations of manuscripts and opted for artists who could produce a more austere interpretation of the scriptures. Therefore secular production in his workshop all but disappeared. These émigré “art stars” Mir Sayyid Ali and Abd as-Samad would influence and elevate India’s painting workshop output for the next two hundred years (Forbes et al).

As in the Iranian workshops Mughal artists executed very specialized efforts. For example, the manuscript album workshop, called the kitabkhana or “bookhouse”, would have paper-makers, paper burnishers; draftsmen to measure, lay out, and sketch; color painters, gold painters, and painters of just facial features; calligraphers; binders, and more. There would be someone in charge of these artists, to keep track of materials and supply costs, pay salaries or retainers, and communicate between the workshop and the commissioning member of the royal family. Unlike today’s art world, where artists are known to be as important or more so than the finished work, in the Kitabkhana only the bookkeeping records might list names of artists. A few signatures from the most celebrated masters have appeared in unique portions of a few paintings.

Today the workshop way of working would be more like our factory system, like an automobile assembly plant.  Each job is done repeatedly by an expert in that particular process. Everyone takes pride in his or her role in making a very complex, fully functioning automobile. Other contemporary examples are the film industry Disney/Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic that employ armies of computer artists for special effects and animation, and the Martha Stewart Omni Media Empire. As just one small sub-contract example: For her magazines and TV productions she hires young Rhode Island School of Art and Design students to design, make prototypes, and set up the materials and processes to produce the food, crafts, and products showcased on air.
The modern factory or sub-contract working system serves to make many of the same item quickly for profit. The Mughal workshop was set up to make individually specified items of exquisite design and function, and the economy of such production was sustained by the wealth of the ruling patrons.


Auto assembly images:
Websites with images by keyword search as well

A School Scene. Iran, 1530 – 1550
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Outstanding British Museum interactive website for students
Illustration from Akbarnama
Designed by Basawan, painted by Shankar. India, Mughal, 1590–95
Lucy Maud Buckingham Collection, 1919.898
Look for image index to select Mughal related works
This is a very well cited source for paintings related to and including Mughal examples.

Forbes, Geraldine et al
The New Cambridge History of India
Cambridge University Press ISBN:0521400279


Exemplars of Mughal art depicting the workshop, other exemplars illustrating various album paintings, Calligraphy pages, borders, patterns from textiles, painting, architecture, any rich artifacts from India.

Paper for note taking and presenting final work

For Manuscript and Muraqqa Album lessons:

Cut tag board, readymade index cards, Arches paper – any heavy smooth finish paper cut into uniform card size approx. 3.5 X 5.5 or 6 inches

F or H Pencils, rulers, compasses, colored pencils, or watercolor pencils, markers, black fine point pens, sharpie markers, gold pens

For Collage lessons:

Magazine, Internet stock photo images of mass production

Glue, scissors, background paper

For Sound Jewels:

Found and discarded, recyclable objects that are relatively small such as buttons, metal lids, small metal washers, pen springs, sticks, empty toilet paper rolls, other cardboard rolls cut into shorter lengths, yarn or embroidery thread or string, plastic tubes that protect new paintbrushes – there are countless items that can be saved over time in the course of running an art program. A letter can be sent home asking students to collect and bring in such items.


Maryland Standards/Learner Outcomes:

VSC Fine Arts, Grade 3

2.0 Historical, Cultural, and Social Context:  Students will demonstrate an understanding of visual arts as an essential aspect of history and human experience.

2.  Classify reasons why people create and use art by studying artworks and other sources of information

a.  Identify techniques, processes, and materials from different times and places used to create visual art 

b.  Describe the origins of selected techniques, processes, and materials used in the visual arts

3.0 Creative Expression and Production:  Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.

1. Create images and forms from observation, memory, and imagination 

a.  Experiment with art media, processes, and techniques to generate ideas and express personal meaning

b.  Manipulate art media, materials, and tools safely

c.  Create artworks that explore the uses of color, line, shape, texture, form, space, and selected principles of design, such as pattern, repetition, contrast, and balance to express personal meaning

2. Investigate a variety of ways that artists develop ideas and organize the elements of art in responding to what they see, know, and feel 

a.  Identify sources for ideas and describe the processes used to create artworks  

b.  Identify and describe color, line, shape, texture, form, space, and selected principles of design, such as pattern, repetition, contrast, and balance in artworks
VSC: Social Studies Grade 3

Standard 2.0 Peoples of the Nation and World

C. Conflict and Compromise

Indicator: 1. Analyze how groups of people interact

Objectives: 1. Identify and demonstrate appropriate social skills necessary for working in a cooperative groups such as using concern, compassion, and respect among group members

2. Explain how different points of view in school and community situations may result in compromise or conflict

Fine Arts Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

1. Analyze a work or works of art to identify story, techniques, processes, and materials from different times and places
2. Identify, discuss, and apply a Mughal workshop model for making an artistic product
3. Make comparisons to current models of production
4. Experiment with art media, processes, and techniques to generate ideas and express personal meaning 
5. Manipulate art media, materials, and tools safely

Social Studies Objectives:

Students will analyze how groups of people interact by:

  1. Experiencing cooperative art making
  2. Identifying and demonstrating appropriate social skills necessary for working in a cooperative groups such as using concern, compassion, and respect among group members
  3. Explaining how different points of view in school and community situations may result in compromise or conflict

Skills Needed:

Fine Arts
Looking closely, exact cutting, legible neat handwriting or printing, knowledge of color and pattern, gluing cleanly, organized planning, pre-visioning, re-working, repeating a process carefully

Social Studies
Making connections to the present, thinking steps ahead, thinking about others, making an effort, taking pride in the whole

Key Words/ Vocabulary:



An artist or artisan’s studio; a workshop; sometimes where an artist trains for his profession



Artistic, stylized handwriting or the art of producing such



Verb: The act of hiring someone to execute a certain work or works
Noun: The work executed under such an agreement



Literally “book house” in Persian. The workshop in Mughal India and Iran, where art (book arts mainly) were executed



An Indian Muslim of or descended from one of several conquering groups of Mongol, Turkic, and Persian origin



Literally “Patchwork”, a term to describe a Sufi ascetic’s cloak. It referred to the piecing of different pictures and borders of manuscript albums into newer ones for the Mughal court.



Someone who acts as a sponsor or benefactor. For the artists of Mughal India, the wealthy ruling families were the ones who determined and ordered what would be made.



A continuous or connected series



Designed, trained, or fitted for one particular purpose or




A small establishment where handicrafts or manufacturing is done.

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