The themes of the miniature are generally inspired
by paintings commissioned centuries ago by Indian Emperors. Initially,
the sketch is prepared by the artist on a smooth surface of a
paper in light blue or reddish-brown ink. This primary sketch
is drawn in soft lines suggesting only the outlines of the figures.
These are later corrected and bold, accurate, hard lines are drawn.
A thin coat of white pigment is applied to obliterate the incorrect lines.
Once the master sketch is drawn, it is copied
or pounced (traced). Traditionally tracing was done with a piece
of transparent deer skin which was placed on top of the drawing,
the outlines of which were then pierced. The deer skin has since
been replaced by tracing paper. The stencil thus prepared, it
is then placed over a fresh paper and black pigment is passed
through the pinholes leaving soft outlines which are later reinforced
The pigment are first blended and laid flat on
the paper. No consideration is made of tonality, instead contrasting
colors are used. Tendency to represent the minutest details, principles
of maximum visibility and love for ornamentation were possible
only when the colors are laid flat. The floors, carpets, arms
and armour, utensils etc., are depicted with profuse embellishment.
The draperies however are left comparatively plain. The three
dimensional effect is achieved by two methods of shading : the
original color is spread on the surface, then darker colors are
applied ; or the shading pigment is gradually mixed with the original
pigment while still wet. The ground colors are not necessarily
light but are lighter than those to be applied in subsequent fillings.
Human figures are painted first, animal figures next, and the
background is colored last of all. After coloring and shading,
the outlines of the object, as delineated in the primary sketch,
are reconfirmed by a darker tone and the figures given a well
Gold highlights are the last step before burnishing.
The burnishing process involves laying the miniature face down
on a hard, smooth surface and gently and firmly stroking it with
a polished piece of agate stone. Burnishing provides protective
hardening and gives an overall unity of texture to the paintings.
After the painter has finished, the picture is
passed on to other artists for trimming or to the 'wasligar' for
mounting. Then beautiful hashiyas (borders) are mad and the calligrapher
or 'naqshanavis' is asked to write part of the text or inscribe
the name of the artist at the lower part.
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