Persian miniature  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A Persian miniature is a small painting, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works. The techniques are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts. Although there is an equally well-established Persian tradition of wall-painting, the survival rate and state of preservation of miniatures is better, and miniatures are much the best-known form of Persian painting in the West. Miniature painting became a significant Persian form in the 13th century, and the highest point in the tradition was reached in the 15th and 16th centuries. The tradition continued, under some Western influence, after this, and has many modern exponents. The Persian miniature was the dominant influence on other Islamic miniature traditions, principally the Ottoman miniature in Turkey, and the Mughal miniature in the Indian sub-continent.

History of Persian miniatures

The origin of the Persian miniature is difficult to trace. The art form reached its peak mainly during the Mongol and Timurid periods (13th-16th century), and was heavily influenced by Chinese paintings as the Mongol rulers of Persia brought with them numerous Chinese artists to the court.

In Ilkhanid and Timurid Mongol-Persian mythological miniatures, the mythical animals buraq and dragon was portrayed in a style reminiscent of the Chinese qilin and Chinese dragon, reflecting the Chinese background of painters who introduced watercolor techniques to Iran and initiated several medieval schools of Persian miniature painting. In fact, many religious paintings, including a famous one portraying the Prophet Muhammad's Miraj from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem into the heavens, displays stylistic elements of undoubtedly Chinese origins. Islamic angels are depicted as wearing the tight robes of northern Chinese style. Persian miniature paintings of the Ilkhanid and Timurid periods, especially ones related to the Shahnameh stories, usually borrow landscape painting techniques from contemporary Chinese schools, developed during the Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty.

Prominent Persian miniaturists

See also

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