Active between 1692–1715 at the court of Mewar in present-day Rajasthan, the Stipple Master was an otherwise-anonymous painter who pioneered the use of the nim qalam technique in Udaipur. Not much is known about the Stipple Master’s identity, and the name is a modern pseudonym. It is likely that they were a male artist, as was the norm at court ateliers in the early modern period in the subcontinent. Several works attributed to the master depict his patron, the ruler Amar Singh II of Mewar in intimate, leisurely settings, and were probably developed in close collaboration with the latter. These suggest that he may have held relatively high rank with considerable access to the maharana.
Before ascending the throne in 1698, Amar Singh had rebelled against his father, setting up his own court and atelier with support from the ruler of Bundi. Scholars have suggested that it was at Bundi that Amar Singh and the Stipple Master — possibly a member of his retinue or newly-formed atelier — developed a preference for shading techniques such as stippling and the use of short strokes. It is also possible that the Stipple Master was employed by the court of Kota or Bundi prior to working with Amar Singh. His work and technique suggest that he was familiar with examples of nim qalam work produced in the courts of the Deccan Sultanates and the Mughals.
The master’s images were markedly different from the flat and opaque style of rendering paired with the use of primary colours then prevalent in the Mewar School of Painting. He made use of perspective in depictions of architecture or landscapes. Figures were shaded with stippling, adding depth. They were also highlighted with a limited but vivid palette of colours, primarily lime green with accents of pink or red. This made them stand out against the plain, monochromatic background.
The Stipple Master’s aesthetic went on to become the dominant style of Mewar in subsequent decades. He appears to have developed a reputation as a portrait artist, producing hunting scenes and equestrian portraits as well as depictions of Amar Singh at leisure. Unlike his predecessors at the court of Udaipur, the Stipple Master’s renditions of his patron were naturalistic, sensitive to the latter’s changing facial features over the years. After Amar Singh’s death, the Stipple Master continued to work for his son Sangram Singh, who ascended the throne in 1710. The Stipple Master retired or died in around 1715.
Glynn, Catherine. “The ‘Stipple Master’.” Artibus Asiae Supplementum 48 (2011): 515–30.
Guy, John, and Jorrit Britschgi. Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100–1900. New York: New Haven [Conn.]: Metropolitan Museum of Art; Distributed by Yale University Press, 2011.
Topsfield, Andrew. Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the Patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar. Artibus Asiae 44. Zurich: Artibus Asiae Publishers; Museum Rietberg, 2001.