What is a miniature

A miniature is a small picture involving very small detailed painting. This title is chiefly used for the painting of the East where the rules of perspective and anatomy are not observed. Some people think that the word is French composed of two words – minimum and nature. The equivalent word in Persian mean painting. Landscape painting in Persian is often imaginary and fictitious. The artists believe that man is the axis of  life. They do not care for light effects as they are absorbed by the glory of the divine light. Minute care and attention to detail is a particular manifestation of  Persian landscape painting. Etching using fine lines gives a sense of  perspective.

The history of  painting in Iran:

Prehistory painting in Persia:

The most important painted pictures in Iran have been excavated in the west and in Lorestan. Most of these pictures show scenes of battle, hunting, man and animal. Vestige of painting were seen on the earthen ware objects. The artists also exhibited their works on metal articles.

Painting during the Achaemenian dynasty:

If  you take the relief pictures of  Persepolis into consideration, you can see an interest in deep colours and a taste for elaborate work which is the fundament of a Persian art. There are murals with glazed bricks in Apadana (Persepolis) and a part of Susa palace. Achaemenid art cared for the decorative aspects of  drawings.

Painting during the Arsacids (Parthians) dynasty:

In Arsacid art Painting was very important. Most relief drawings of this period was of type of design and drawing. The most famous drawing of this type is in Khaje mountain where the Persian and Greek arts are mingled together. One of the particulars of these drawings is applying black lines for drawing through using tools and lacking shade in colours.

Painting during Sassanian dynasty:

There are a lot of reports in books of history and log in that period on Painting. Among the sites where painting vestiges are seen is Madayen veranda (Tagh-e Kasra). The beautiful drawings of cloths and carpets of the sassanid also show the flourishing and prevalence of drawing art in that period. The art of bookmaking and decorating it with paintings reached the acme of evolution.


Mani was Persian and claimant for prophecy who publicized his beliefs by drawing. Many houses of painting had been constructed upon the recommendation of Mani where people painted on the walls of the constructions and his disciples came to know the philosophy of his religion. His book was called ARZHANG – the illustrated book of Mani (Manes) – decorated with Miniature pictures.


Post Islamic Miniature

Arabs art could be found in their language rather then in painting, sculpturing or architecture but their prevalence upon the world acquainted them with art and business. Through Abbassids’ take over and the patronage of Iranian, Baghdad was founded as the first school of Painting and painting of books by the Abbassids caliphs when Iranian were holding ministerial offices. The painting of Baghdad school were simple involving some limited sculptures of man and trees. This school was formed upon the Sassanian and Bizance arts containing two groups of book: 1- Scientific books consisting of physics, medicine and astronomy. 2- Books of poem and stories which have illustrated some pleasant tales as book of Kalile-va-Demneh. The most celebrated painter of Baghdad school Abdullah ibn-e Fazl.

The Seljuk school:

During this period illustration of books was preformed by the particular style and manner of the Persians abandoning the qualities promulgated in Baghdad school. Regarding the manuscripts painting was directly done on the pages of the book and the garment were decorated by Arabesque style with floral design ( flower plus plants ). In principal the Mane art influence could be recognized in illustrated manuscripts of this period.

The Mongol school

In this period we witness the influence of Persian Painting which flows from China, since the Mongol were superseded by Chinese culture after conquering China to that extent that they became the disseminator and brought the culture to Iran after they conquered it, but soon the culture was influenced by Persian culture. The vestiges of Chinese naturalism are many during this period such as twisted clouds, mountains, old trees, fictitious animals and beasts and also proportionate pictures.

Herat school

After the infiltration of tamer lane to Iran while taking over any area, he used to send the artists and craftsmen to Samarghand. Therefore the Timurid period counts as one of the most prominent period of Painting in Iran. Finally, Shahrokh came to power and chose Herat as his capital where we witness the acme of Painting art and painting which bricked up by he himself and his descendents. The characteristic of Herat school shows the tendency of portrayers to pay attention to drawings and details of designs and its delicate touch, variety of colours, versatility and their proportion, multiplicity of golden colour and covering the main surface with plants and bushes. The famous painter of this period is Kamal od-din Behzad.

Safavid and Tabriz School

After Shah Ismail came to power and organized the Safavid government many of the artists gathered together in Tabriz and began writing books and Painting presided by Behzad. In Tabriz school people tried to depict all the environmental space into a tiny picture, therefore they filled all the space of scenery. They created polyhedral combination which spread from bottom to top. The colours were harmonized bright, leavened and sensitive. All the components parts are equally necessary and important. Among the particulars of Safavid drawing especially Tabriz is dressing and covering of persons’ heads. In these drawings one red hat called Taj Heidar is seen.

Esfahan school

After Shah-Abbas the great came to throne and chose Esfahan as Capital, he and his successors patronized the artists. Among the painters of this period was Aghamossavar whose works were mostly as single and his style followed the Tabriz school. The other one is Reza Abbasi who based a new style in Esfahan school, paid complete care to nature. He was skillful in nourish the face.

Qajar School

The Painting outset of Qajar began with Afsharian and Zandian, during the epoch of Karim-Khan-e Zand’s reign, oil painting on canvas was fully attended and the painters of Zandian period more emphasis on light and Shade effect and perspective under the influence of the west art.
Painting example of Qajar Style, a combination of wall picture of Safavid and classic painting of Europe. The most different between painting of these pictures. The miniature hands and slim waist are the common aspects of the women in these picture who are mostly dancing, playing instruments and serving wine. The men with eyes, arc-browed eyebrows, short hair and Qajar dress and hat have been painted identical to each other. Kamal al-lmolk and Sami al-lmolk are notables regarding the Qajar style.