About the Persian miniature.

History of the Painting art in Iran:

Persian miniature

A Persian miniature is a more detailed painting, which depicts literature or mythological themes from the region of the Middle East now known as Iran. The art of miniature painting in Persia flourished from the 13th through the 16th centuries, and continues to now contemporary artists producing notable Persian miniatures. Many museums of Asian art have Persian miniatures in their collections.

Iranian miniature is a small painting, which designed a book illustration or a work of art painting. The techniques are comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts, which probably had an influence on the origins of the Persian tradition painting. Persian miniatures were commissioned as book illustrations for Persian illuminated manuscripts.

The Persian miniature was probably inspired by Chinese art, given the very Chinese themes which appear in some early examples of Persian miniatures. Many of the mythological creatures depicted in early Persian painting, bear a striking resemblance to animals in Chinese myth.  However Persian artists developed their own style and themes. And the concept of the Persian miniature was picked up by neighboring regions.

The Iranian Miniature became a considerable Persian painting form in the 13th century, and the highest point in the tradition was reached in the 15th and 16th centuries. The tradition of painting continued, under some Western influence.

The Persian miniature was the dominant influence on other Islamic miniature traditions, principally the Ottoman miniature in Turkey, and the Mogul miniature in the Indian sub-continent. Iran’s miniature artists are recognizable for their emphasis on natural and realist motifs. Also the Persian technique of layering perspectives to create a sense of space.

Content and form are basic elements of Persian miniature painting, and miniature artists are renowned for subtle use of color. The themes of Persian miniature are mostly related to Persian mythology and poetry. Western artists discovered the Persian miniature around the beginning of the 20th century. Persian miniatures uses pure geometry and a vivid palette.  

The history of the painting in Iran, goes back to the cave age. In the caves of Lorestan province, painted images of animals and hunting scenes have been discovered. Also Paintings discovered on earthenware in Lorestan, and other archaeological sites, that the artists of this region were familiar with the painting art.

The China, since the 7th century, as an artistic center, has been the most important incentive for the painting in Iran. Ever since, a relation has been established between Buddhist Chinese painters and, Iranian artists.

The most important evolution in Iranian art has been the adoption of Chinese designs and coloring that were mixed with the specific conception of Iranian artists. After the emergence of Islam, Iranian artists began decoration books.

Miniature Painting of the Islamic period had the reputation of belonging to Baghdad school. Miniatures of Baghdad school have the style and methods of the usual paintings of the pre-Islamic period. The miniatures of Baghdad school are not proportional.

Portraits show the Sami race and light colors are used. Artists of the Baghdad school were eager to create and innovate. Although the Baghdad school, considering the pre-Islamic art, was   superficial and primitive, but the art of Iranian miniature, in the same period, was widespread in Far East, Africa and Europe.

Mogul emperors after the invasion of Iran, were impressed by the Iranian art. The characteristics of the Iranian painting which can also be observed in the paintings of Mogul style, had subtleties, decorative compositions, and fine short lines.

The style of the Iranian paintings is linear and not dimensional. Artists of the Mogul royal honored not only the techniques, but also used Iranian themes. A part of their work consisted of illustrating Iranian literary masterpieces such as The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. Contrary to Baghdad and Mogul schools, more paintings remain from Harat School. The founders of the Harat School, were Teimoor’s ancestors.

Art experts believe that during Teimoor’s period, the art of painting in Iran, had reached a climax. During this period, outstanding masters, such as Kamaleddin Behzad. He was a painter of Persian miniatures and head of the royal ateliers in Herat and Tabriz during the late Timurid and early Safavid periods.

Behzad is the most famous of Persian miniature painters, he was as the director of workshop producing manuscript illuminations. Persian painting of this period uses an arrangement of geometric architectural elements as the structural or compositional context in which the figures are arranged.

He uses value (dark-light contrast) more emphatically, and skillfully than other medieval miniaturists. This surprising individuality of character and narrative creativity are some qualities that distinguish Bezhad’s works and that match their literary intent. He also uses Sufi symbolism and symbolic color to convey meaning.

He introduced greater naturalism to Persian painting, particularly in the depiction of more individualized figures. And the use of realistic gestures and expressions.

Behzad was born, lived and worked in Herat under the Timurid dynasty. He was raised by the prominent painter Mirak Naqqash, and was a portage of Mir Ali Shir Nava’i. His major patrons in Herat were the Timurid sultan Husayn Bayqarah in his circle.

After the fall of the Timurids, he was employed by Shah Ismail Safavi in Tabriz, where, as director of the royal atelier, he had a decisive impact on the development of later Safavid painting. Behead died in 1535 and his tomb is located in Tabriz.

During the Safavid priod, the artistic center was moved to Tabriz. A few artists also settled in Qazvin. However, the Safavid School of painting was established in Isfahan. The miniature of Iran, in the Isfahan of Safavid period, was detached from the influence of the Chinese out and stepped on a new road. The painters were then more inclined towards naturalism.

Reza Abbasi was the most renowned Persian miniaturist, painter and calligrapher of the Isfahan School, which flourished during the Safavid period under the patronage of Shah Abbas.

Reza Abbasi, founded the Safavid School of painting. The art of design during the Safavid period was subjected to a brilliant transformation. He is considered to be one of the foremost Persian artists of all time.

He received his training in the atelier of his father, and was received into the workshop of Shah Abbas at young age. Today his works can be found in the museum in Tehran, as well as in many of the major museums of the West, such as the Smithsonian, the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Safavid style is softer in form than those of the Teimoorian School and the Mongolian. Human images and their behavior are not vain and artificial, natural and close to reality. In Safavid paintings, the grandeur of this period is the main attraction. The themes of the paintings are about the life in the royal court, beautiful palaces, pleasant goodness, scenes of battles and banquets.

Artists paid more attention to generalities and, avoided unnecessary details, as used in Harat and Tabriz styles. The smoothness of lines, the quick expression of feelings, and condensing the subjects are the characteristics of the Safavid style of painting. Since the end of the Safavid period, perspective and shading, a result of the European style, appeared in the Iranian paintings.

Paintings of the Qajar era, are a combination of the classic European arts and Safavid miniature techniques. In this period, Mohammad Gaffari Kamal-ul-Molk, pushed forward the European classical style of painting in Iran. a kind of the Qajar painting known as the “Teahouse” painting which is a new phenomenon in the history of the Iranian paintings.

The great Iranian master miniaturist, Hossein Behzad the son of Mirza Lotfollah Esfahani was born in Tehran in 1894. He was greatly interested in painting in his early childhood, and his father put him under the care of Molla Ali in the Art Center to gain miniature painting skills.

It was not long before his father and his trainer died by the attack of cholera. The hard and tragic period of the life of this sensitive and talented child started since this time.

At first Behzad followed the paintings style of old masters like Kamaleddin Behzad and Reza Abbassi. His works was so skillfully that were not difference between his works and the old masters. 

Behzad left for France in 1934, stayed in Paris for thirteen months during which he surveyed various Eastern and Western painting styles in Louvre and Versailles museums. The result of this trip was the invention of a new style in miniature art by Behzad.

Behzad great artist belongs not only to Iran. The French newspapers published many articles in praise of this Iranian artist. An exhibition of his works was held in Modern Art Museum in Paris by the French government and several exhibitions in the United States was welcomed and praised by Americans.

Mahmoud Farshchian is a world renowned master of Persian painting and Iranian miniatures. He was born in the city of Isfahan in Iran, a place famed for its art and artists, and it was here where he started to learn art. His father, a rug merchant, was an art aficionado who instilled a love for the arts in his son.

After receiving his diploma from Isfahan’s high school for the fine arts, Farshchian left for Europe, where he studied the works of the great Western masters of Painting. His masterpieces have been hosted by several museums and exhibitions worldwide.

He’s the most prominent modernizer of the field of miniatures, an art form which was first established in Ancient Persia and later spread to Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries.

Farshchian is the founder of his own school in Iranian Painting, which adheres to classical form while making use of new techniques to broaden the scope of Iranian painting. He has brought new life to this art form and has freed it from the symbiotic relationship it has historically had with poetry and literature, to give it an independence it had not previously enjoyed.

His powerful and innovative paintings are dynamic, expansive and vibrant canvases with an appealing fusion of the traditional and the modern, which are constitutes of his unique style of painting. Farshchian has played a decisive role in introducing Iranian art and painting to the international art scene.

Dear visitor, if you are interested in Iranian miniature painting, you can visit the collection of miniature paintings, which has been painted by an Iranian artist.

Please click on this: The collection of Iranian miniature paintings

© Khorshid Artworks Collection.