is a small painting on paper, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works called a muraqqa. 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, and many of the most important examples are in Western, or Turkish, museums. Miniature painting became a significant genre in Persian art in the 13th century, receiving Chinese influence after the Mongol conquests, 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.
Persian art under Islam had never completely forbidden the human figure, and in the miniature tradition the depiction of figures, often in large numbers, is central. This was partly because the miniature is a private form, kept in a book or album and only shown to those the owner chooses. It was therefore possible to be more free than in wall paintings or other works seen by a wider audience. The Qur'an and other purely religious works are not known to have been illustrated in this way, though histories and other works of literature may include religiously related scenes, including those depicting the Prophet Muhammed, after 1500 usually without showing his face.
As well as the figurative scenes in miniatures, which this article concentrates on, there was a parallel style of non-figurative ornamental decoration which was found in borders and panels in miniature pages, and spaces at the start or end of a work or section, and often in whole pages acting as frontispieces. In Islamic art this is referred to as "illumination", and manuscripts of the Qur'an and other religious books often included considerable number of illuminated pages. The designs reflected contemporary work in other media, in later periods being especially close to book-covers and Persian carpets, and it is thought that many carpet designs were created by court artists and sent to the workshops in the provinces.
In later periods miniatures were increasingly created as single works to be included in albums called muraqqa, rather than illustrated books. This allowed non-royal collectors to afford a representative sample of works from different styles and periods
The bright and pure colouring of the Persian miniature is one of its most striking features. Normally all the pigments used are mineral-based ones which keep their bright colours very well if kept in proper conditions, the main exception being silver, mostly used to depict water, which will oxidize to a rough-edged black over time. The conventions of Persian miniatures changed slowly; faces are normally youthful and seen in three-quarters view, with a plump rounded lower face better suited to portraying typical Central Asian or Chinese features than those of most Persians. Lighting is even, without shadows or chiaroscuro. Walls and other surfaces are shown either frontally, or as at (to modern eyes) an angle of about 45 degrees, often giving the modern viewer the unintended impression that a building is (say) hexagonal in plan. Buildings are often shown in complex views, mixing interior views through windows or "cutaways" with exterior views of other parts of a facade. Costumes and architecture are always those of the time.
Many figures are often depicted, with those in the main scene normally rendered at the same size, and recession (depth in the picture space) indicated by placing more distant figures higher up in the space. More important figures may be somewhat larger than those around them, and battle scenes can be very crowded indeed. Great attention is paid to the background, whether of a landscape or buildings, and the detail and freshness with which plants and animals, the fabrics of tents, hangings or carpets, or tile patterns are shown is one of the great attractions of the form. The dress of figures is equally shown with great care, although artists understandably often avoid depicting the patterned cloth that many would have worn. Animals, especially the horses that very often appear, are mostly shown sideways on; even the love-stories that constitute much of the classic material illustrated are conducted largely in the saddle, as far as the prince-protagonist is concerned. Landscapes are very often mountainous (the plains that make up much of Persia are rarely attempted), this being indicated by a high undulating horizon, and outcrops of bare rock which, like the clouds in the normally small area of sky left above the landscape, are depicted in conventions derived from Chinese art. Even when a scene in a palace is shown, the viewpoint often appears to be from a point some metres in the air.
The earliest miniatures appeared unframed horizontally across the page in the middle of text, following Byzantine and Arabic precedents, but in the 14th century the vertical format was introduced, perhaps influenced by Chinese scroll-paintings. This is used in all the luxury manuscripts for the court that constitute the most famous Persian manuscripts, and the vertical format dictates many characteristics of the style.
The miniatures normally occupy a full page, later sometimes spreading across two pages to regain a square or horizontal "landscape" format. There are often panels of text or captions inside the picture area, which is enclosed in a frame, eventually of several ruled lines with a broader band of gold or colour. The rest of the page is often decorated with dense designs of plants and animals in a muted grisaille, often gold and brown; text pages without miniatures often also have such borders. In later manuscripts, elements of the miniature begin to expand beyond the frame, which may disappear on one side of the image, or be omitted completely.
Another later development was the album miniature, conceived as a single picture rather than a book illustration, though such images may be accompanied by short lyric poems. The withdrawal of Shah Tahmasp I from commissioning illustrated books in the 1540s probably encouraged artists to transfer to these cheaper works for a wider circle of patrons. Albums or muraqqas were assembled by collectors with album miniatures, specimen pages of calligraphy, and miniatures taken from older books, to which border paintings were often added when they were remounted. Album miniatures usually showed a few figures on a larger scale, with less attention to the background, and tended to become drawings with some tints of coloured wash, rather than fully painted.
In the example at right the clothes are fully painted, and the background uses the gold grisaille style earlier reserved for marginal decoration, as in the miniature at the head of the article. Many were individual portraits, either of notable figures (but initially rarely portraits of rulers), or of idealized beautiful youths. Others were scenes of lovers in a garden or picnics. From about the middle of the 16th century these types of images became dominant, but they gradually declined in quality and originality and tended towards conventional prettiness and sentimentality.
Books were sometimes refurbished and added to after an interval of many years, adding or partly repainting miniatures, changing the border decoration, and making other changes, not all improvements. The Conference of the Birds miniature in the gallery below is an addition of 1600 to a manuscript of over a century earlier, and elements of the style appear to represent an effort to match the earlier miniatures in the book. The famous painting Princes of the House of Timur was first painted in 1550-55 in Persia for the exiled Mughal prince Humayun, who largely began the Mughal miniature tradition by taking back Persian miniaturists when he gained the throne. It was then twice updated in India (c.1605 and 1628) to show later generations of the royal house. The dimensions of the manuscripts covered a range not dissimilar to typical modern books, though with a more vertical ratio; many were as small as a modern paperback, others larger. Shah Tamasp's Shahnameh stood 47 cm high, and one exceptional Shahnameh from Tabriz of c. 1585 stood 53 cm high.
Before Chinese influence was introduced, figures were tied to the ground line and included "backgrounds of solid color", or in "clear accordance with indigenous artistic traditions". However, once influenced by the Chinese, Persian painters gained much more freedom through the Chinese traditions of "unrestricted space and infinite planes". Much of the Chinese influence in Persian art is probably indirect, transmitted through Central Asia. There appear to be no Persian miniatures that are clearly the work of a Chinese artist or one trained in China itself. The most prestigious Chinese painting tradition, of literati landscape painting on scrolls, has little influence; instead the closest parallels are with wall-paintings and motifs such as clouds and dragons found in Chinese pottery, textiles, and other decorative arts. The format and composition of the Persian miniature received strong influence from Chinese paintings.
The Ilkhanid rulers did not convert to Islam for several decades, meanwhile remaining Tantric Buddhists or Christians (usually Nestorians). While very few traces now remain, Buddhist and Christian images were probably easily available to Persian artists at this period. Especially in Ilkhanid and Timurid Mongol-Persian mythological miniatures, mythical beasts were portrayed in a style close to the Chinese qilin, fenghuang (phoenix), bixie and Chinese dragon, though they have a much more aggressive character in Islamic art, and are often seen fighting each other or natural beasts.
Prominent Persian miniaturists:
The workshop tradition and division of labour within both an individual miniature and a book, as described above, complicates the attribution of paintings. Some are inscribed with the name of the artist, sometimes as part of the picture itself, for example as if painted on tiles in a building, but more often as a note added on the page or elsewhere; where and when being often uncertain. Because of the nature of the works, literary and historical references to artists, even if they are relied upon, usually do not enable specific paintings to be identified, though there are exceptions. The reputation of Kamāl ud-Dīn Behzād Herawī, or Behzād, the leading miniaturist of the late Timurid era, and founder of the Safavid school, remained supreme in the Persianate world, and at least some of his work, and style, can be identified with a degree of confidence, despite a good deal of continuing scholarly debate.
Sultan Mohammed, Mir Sayyid Ali, and Aqa Mirak, were leading painters of the next generation, the Safavid culmination of the classic style, whose attributed works are found together in several manuscripts. Abd al-Samad was one of the most successful Persian painters recruited by the Mughal Emperors to work in India. In the next generation, Reza Abbasi worked in the Late Safavid period producing mostly album miniatures, and his style was continued by many later painters. In the 19th century, the miniatures of Abu'l-Hasan Khan Gaffari (Sani ol molk), active in Qajar Persia, showed originality, naturalism, and technical perfection. Mahmoud Farshchian is a contemporary miniaturist whose style has broadened the scope of this art
flower and chicken:
Flowers and Chicken is a lightweight in Persian art. Flowers and Chicken are the symbol of divine grace and the subtle manifestation of the Creator. The romance of flowers and chicken is also likened to God's commemoration and the mention of right. The flower has the status of the beloved and the bird (chicken), the lover. In the painting of flowers and chicken, creating harmony between elegant painting elements. You do not need to be sure to draw the bird, but if you are in the waiting state, you will be patient with flowering and foraging with him. The bird, with its rising and bumpy state, separates itself from the material world and has a climb to the immortal world.
Historically, the combination of plants and birds began with the geometric designs since planting away. Because flowers and plants with their looped and bent bunches can accept geometric designs, but birds with their organs' softness require non-nondestructive designs. There are flowers and poultry works from the Seljuk, Safavid, and Qajar times, which have differences, but the process of their changes has slowed down over time. At the end of the Safavid period, birds were carefully pulled up, and then there was no dramatic change in the art. There are differences in the way of doing it. For example, in Shiraz, petals are full and in other ways they are quite thin.