With a very fine hand and an extremely small brush the first Persian miniature was born. Delicate, lush and visually stunning were the characteristics that distinguished these miniatures. A Persian miniature is a small paper painting that flourished in Persia and reached its peak between the 13th and the 16th century. It is a richly detailed painting which depicts religious or mythological themes. The main function of these miniatures was illustration. Therefore, they were used to give a visual image to the literary plot making it more enjoyable and easier to understand. Persian Miniatures came as a combination of artistic and poetic languages and obtained a deep and sincere accordance with poetry. In this article, we will get to know what is Persian miniature art? We will be deeply examining those breathtaking pieces starting from their prominent history, then discussing their unique features and ending with where to see them.
Persian miniature painting started to blossom under Ilkhanid patronage in the 13th century. This was when the miniatures main function was illuminating and illustrating the books. It reached its peak under the patronage of the Timurid rulers in the 14th and 15th centuries. Cities like Tabriz and Hirat were significant centers of this manuscript production. After the16th century, Persian miniature painting diverged from manuscripts to focus on single-page portraits. During these different periods, various independent schools came into existence, each representing unique features. Among the most known ones were Tabriz school, Baghdad school, Shiraz school, and Mozaffarian School. Many ancient Iranian stories and poems of Ferdowsi, Sa’adi, Nezami and Hafez were illustrated in these fine miniatures. However, the evolution of Iranian miniature declined by the end of Safavid period in Iran in the 16th century due to attraction to the western styles.
To fully answer the question of what is Persian miniature art, we surely have to discuss its features. There are some common features in Persian miniature painting that stood firm throughout all these centuries. First, the even light and lack of shadow. Second, the three-quarter and round faces, simultaneous spaces and time, as well as non-perspective images. In addition to that, other common features also stood out, for instance, the size and level of detail. Classically, a Persian miniature also features accents in gold and silver leaf, along with a very vivid array of colors. To illustrate, these paintings are quite small, but they feature rich, complex scenes which can occupy a viewer for hours.
Where to see these beautiful paintings
Persian miniatures started by devoting themselves to adoring books and papers. However, they later found their way to design the walls of glorious buildings. Here are some places that proudly present these miniatures: Ali Qapu, Hasht Behesht and Chehel Sotoun in Qazvin. If you’re an art freak, check our article about art made of trash