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Persian Miniature Painting

Persian miniature artists depicted lifestyle prevailing in 17th century Northern Asia.

My life in those days was less than definable. It was my early days of blissful wandering, the collage days. I came across two types of miniature art: Mughal Miniatures and Persian Minaitures. I do not remember which one I had starting to love first.

The origin of the Persian miniature is difficult to trace. But with the conquest of Iran by Turkish Seldschuks in the eleventh century, in the twelfth century a miniature style of book illustration was developed. It reached its first highpoint in the Mesopotamian school of the thirteenth century. After the Mongolian invasion (13th and 14th centuries) Chinese influence was also taken up. Under the Timurid (15th and 16th centuries) a true Persian style of miniature painting developed.

Girl smoking, Muhammad Qasim, Isfahan

It was the time when the artists we unknown about the concept of painting the purposeful ambiguity. They were simple minded people, like the guy who lives in our neighbourhood. So they painted in a simple way. Mostly known as manuscript illumination, the art of Persian miniature paintings flourished in present day Iran and the surrounding areas. The golden period the miniature was from the 14th to the 17th centuries. It is an art of radiant colours and masterful brushworks by the artists. The paintings got their beauty from the other aspects, too, the graceful calligraphy being the main. The artists of Persian miniatures were nourished by the patronage of princes and rulers.

Persian miniatures are mainly found in the books produced for the wealthy people residing in the area. It was because only the very rich and powerful could afford to commission a manuscript with the miniature paintings. The artist involved in the art of miniature paintings and calligraphers were respected as celebrities, and were highly sought after persons in the time.

Virgin Mary and Jesus (old Persian miniature)Here in the above miniature, the colours used for depicting the transparency of the clothes are also indicating that the characters occupying the scene belongs to a highly rich family, perhaps a noble man’s family. The silk clothes, sometimes imported from Kashmir region of India, were in vogue in that piece of time. However such costly clothes were limited within the wealthy people.

Virgin Mary and Jesus

The other miniature painting is of Virgin Marry and Jesus. the painting is done in Islamic style, in Islam religion they are called as Mariam and Isa. Persian miniatures are sometimes being compared to stage settings, arranged on various levels and composed around an architectural scene. Very often the mountainous landscape is also are the part of the miniatures. This painting contains a host of small actors, all equal in size, bustling here and there on the stage set for them. The characters wander at any level of the paintings.

Paintings of musical instruments and the beautiful women playing santur were very much loved during this period.

Painting from Hasht-Behesht palace, Isfahan, Iran, from 1669

The accumulation of picturesque details and the neat and precise brushwork is the specific characteristics of the Persian paintings. The viewers can let theirs eyes sail over the wealth of the details that is stemming from the meticulous observation of the nature. The miniatures, which are often rich in literary allusions, make the viewers admiring the whole picture. These works mainly illustrated the scriptures and literary texts.

PERSIAN PAINTING FROM MASTER PAINTER BIHZAD

Kamal-ud-din Bihzad 001During 15th century, the miniature paintings in contemporary Persia and Turkey were characterized by a forcefulness and realism. It was unlike their predecessors. At this time some of the masters of miniature paintings had begun putting their signature on their works. It was the time of master painter Bihzad, (1440-1514). His style was more dramatic and intense than his contemporaries. He chose the individuals, their character, and their affairs of everyday life as subject matter of the paintings. The liveliness embedded in each character in frames of Bihzad is quite artistic.

Kamaleddin Behzad. Persia. (1494-95) Present Location British Museum, London

Though the Miniature painting was a prominent art since 13th century, it was on peak in 15th and 16th centuries. In Persia during the last years of fourteenth century, there emerged a school of miniature paintings known as Shiraz. During this period the artists used brilliant colours. Their landscapes were elegantly painted. A novel feature of perception is visible in the paintings of this period, depicting freely drawn birds, flowers in margins, and figures and their faces shown clearly. This painting style illustrates the realistic turn of the art of painting in Persia.

The Shiraz School of later 14th century Persia is distinguished by its brilliance of coloring and presence of gorgeous landscapes; by the frequent inclusion of freely drawn bird and flower motifs in the margins; and by faces and figures with rounded contours. These faces had fine lines, narrow eyes, and rather characteristic sideways glances. A newly applied technique of vertical perspective is evident wherein the figures and objects are shown one over other. However the paintings of the ponds and carpets still were painted as flat figures.

The symbolic decorative basis of Persian painting is fully apparent in the paintings of 15 the century. The flowers bask in the brilliance of daylight while the stars shine in sky. It was masterly combination of the style of realism with symbolism. The artists were completely unbounded by practicality of naturalism, yet theory approach remained completely comprehensible.

Miniatures of this period many a time utilized a new aide for producing perspective: the inclusion of hills and other natural elements in the background. Scenes were frequently staged on what appears to be the edge of a precipice, with horizon indicated by a sudden drop in the landscape. Figures in extreme background look as if they were climbing up an inevitable hill behind, their heads and shoulders appearing over the imaginary horizon. [Image courtesy: Virgin Mary and Jesus See page for author [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons , Kamaleddin Behzad By Kamaleddin Behzad [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons and Painting from Hasht-Behesht palace Wikimedia commons and Girl smoking Wikimedia Commons]

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