Accurate early views of Mecca are normally limited to Ottoman depictions in oil and engraved views. Very few exist that make any attempt to illustrate anything other than the Kaaba itself. Other depictions do exist - Iznik tiles and Ottoman manuscripts are a plentiful source, particularly the numerous religious manuscripts produced in the 16th century including the Dala'il al-Khayrat and Futuh al-Haramayn . These illustrations are however schematic and thus unreliable.
The first illustrated example of a Futuh al-Haramayn manuscript, dated 1540, is in the Topkapi Saray Museum and shows what thereafter became a classic representation of the Masjid al-Haram and its topographic and symbolic environment (no. R.9617, fol. 14a; Esin Atil, The Age of Suleyman the Magnificent, Washington, 1988, p. 65, ill. 22). It is drawn from a flattened perspective, the Kaaba standing in the centre of the rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a double colonnade, the inner arcades being semicircular and forming a part of a key-hole shape and the six minarets pointing inwards into the haram. With time the landscape of Mecca changed and in 1620, a new stone arcade was added, along with three more minarets - bringing the total up to seven. The next major renovations did not occur until the mid-20th century, sponsored by King 'Abdulaziz (1932-1953). The number of minarets depicted here therefore provides us with some (all be they wide) parameters for the dating of our miniature - from the early 17th to the mid-20th century.
It seems likely that Reza, the artist of our miniature, was Indian. When he visited Mecca in 1853, Richard Burton wrote that a number of Indian artists there supported themselves by 'drawing pictures of the holy shrines in pen and ink' (Richard Burton, Personal Narrative of a pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah, London, 1893, p.341 quoted in Stephen Vernoit, Occidentalism, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1997, p.33). This miniature may represent the type of work done by these artists. The artist certainly demonstrates an almost photographic knowledge of the Holy sites that he depicts, although it could be that these are lifted from earlier prototypes.
A panoramic view of Mecca, signed by the painter Mahmud was recently sold at Sotheby's, 6 April 2011, lot 229. Another, by the same artist is in the Khalili Collection (J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, Abu Dhabi, 2007, no.298, pp.260-61).