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Persian Miniatures

History of art in Iran begins since ancient eras. Rock paintings found in Maliana (Fars) have approximately 5 thousand years. There are traces of wall paintings in homes of agricultural settlements, bone and terracotta figurines of people and animals, painted unglazed ceramics and zoomorphic vessels from the Neolithic.

Persian painting, known in the West as a miniature, is deservedly famous worldwide. Portraits, images of holy figures of persons or events were not prohibited, but they were perceived with disapproval according to Islamic religious traditions. Perspective, volume and light all these terms were unknown to Iranian artists. Calligraphy, floral motifs and geometric compositions were the basis of all illustrations. Polychrome was applied only in ceramics. Painters illustrated texts of the Qur'an, scientific works, epics, legends, glorifying achievements and deeds of kings and heroes. In such a way art of miniature developed and improved. According to extant legends, the first Iranian artist and creator of the art of painting was the prophet Mani. He was a founder of Manichaeism, a Gnostic religion, who lived about 210-276 years A.D. Mani’s worshippers believed that his paintings were created with a help of miracle. Later works of Iranian painters influenced on the illustration style of the Byzantine manuscripts, which was the way to get rid of excessive rigidity and convention of the Christian style. Iranian miniature was full of exquisite tenderness. There was a legend that craftsmen sometimes used a single hair as a paintbrush. In the XI century the Iranians were undisputed masters of painting and remain such to our days. Miniature art is conventional and decorative. This painting is without light and shade. Images are based on the finest linear drawing and combinations of pure and sonorous color spots. Miniatures do not know prospects: figures and objects are located on the plane of the sheet like colorful patterns. Conditional methods restrict the image of a man: his/her posture, gestures, conveying messages are subject to the canon. As in the poetry of the East, practice of repetition of well-known stories and artistic techniques is accepted in miniatures. However, a miniature as a secular art was closest to reality. The plane was filled with the image of monuments, landscapes and objects. Portrait image of a person acquired in a Persian miniature relatively more independence and activity.

It is very difficult to trace back the origin of miniature art in Persia, because it reached the top during the Mongol and Timurid period. Art style of China was widely circulated in Iran then days. In a traditional Persian miniature, especially in the initial stage of its development, a strong influence of Chinese art is observed. In general, a miniature was acted as an illustration. This feature allowed adding some visual images in a text. It made the reading and understanding of the text easier and more enjoyable. A miniature, always developing at the interface of literature and art, combines features of both the artistic and poetic language. There was a rapid development of culture in 13-14 centuries in Shiraz, capital of Fars. It was a period Saadi, Hafiz and Kermani. Poetry flourished and miniatures too. One of the most important works of this period was the creation of illustrations to the "Shahnameh". In Shiraz a large group of artists was engaged in this. The Shiraz miniature was characterized by symmetrical composition, relationship with wall paintings, rough drawing, large human figures and prevalence of gold, red and yellow colors. Shiraz school had a great influence on the art of Iran and Central Asia. Kamaleddin Behzad is a Persian miniaturist. He is one the most famous masters of Persian miniatures. He is called the "Eastern Raphael". He became famous as a creator of special visual style: geometric, that was used to convey meaning Sufi mysticism and symbolism of color. In contemporary Iranian art miniature got a second wind. It began to develop actively, along with other genres of painting.

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