Beneath the miniature is an attribution which reads, 'amal-e 'ali reza, 'Work of 'Ali Reza'.
This wonderful miniature is an example of the emergent trend in Mughal courts from the early days of Akbar's reign to emulate European artistic modes, which bought with it a new host of subjects, many religious. European prints by Flemish masters working ultimately under the influence of Albrecht Dürer were accessible to the painters of Akbar's studio (a Mughal miniature of the Virgin and Child, done circa 1600 after an engraving by Dürer is in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, reproduced in Amina Okada, Imperial Mughal Painters. Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Paris, 1992, p. 24, no. 24). Dutch, French and Italian prints were also available, as were large scale oil paintings. One such oil painting, possibly by Rubens, is seen in a miniature by Abu'l-Hasan depicting 'Ceremonies at the accession of Jahangir' from a Jahangirnama manuscript which is in the St. Petersburg Muraqqa' (f.22recto, Francesca V. Habsburg et al., The St. Petersburg Muraqqa', Lugano, 1996, pl.177). Almost contemporaneous with our miniature, the depiction of this oil painting shows the influences to which our artist must have been exposed.
An Akbari period painting of Saint Matthew the Evangelist painted by Kesu Das and now in the Bodleian Library and another, in the San Diego Museum of Art, from an Album of Jahangir and depicting the Virgin and Child, circa 1590 (attributed by Stuart Cary Welch to Kesu Das) share similar compositions to ours. All have the principle figure in the right hand corner of the page before an architectural arcade, on a terrace dotted with vessels and animals (Ivan Stchoukine, La Peinture Indienne à l'Epoque des Grands Moghols, Paris, 1929, pl.XIXb and Milo Cleveland Beach, The Grand Mogul, Imperial Painting in India 1600-1660, Massachusetts, 1978, p.52, fig.8). That of Saint Matthew shares a horizon scattered with buildings like our miniature. What is striking in all three is the very naturalistic and faithful treatment of the fabrics.
Other miniatures of the holy family with John the Baptist are known. One painted by Abu'l Hassan is in the British Museum (Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B.N. Goswamy (eds.), Masters of Indian Painting, Vol.I, exhibition catalogue, Zurich and New York, 2011, fig.9, p.222). Another miniature of a Christian scene, probably the Annunication, was sold in these Rooms, 5 October 2010, lot 374.