Where Smaller becomes Greater
October 27, 2007 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Many masterpieces of Persian Art were produced during the period of the Safavid dynasty 1502 - 1736. Minature paintings developed into a high artform. A brief history of Muslim Minature Painting.
posted by adamvasco (7 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I love this stuff—thanks for the post. The Met has a great collection of Islamic art, with some fine miniatures; unfortunately, it's closed for remodeling (see Holland Cotter article from the NY Times), but when it reopens in 2010 it should be an even better place to visit. (I always loved the quiet rooms where you could look at masterpieces without the madding crowds that filled the European halls.)
posted by languagehat at 11:02 AM on October 27, 2007

Wonderfully put together post adamvasco . This dragon in the mountain one is a beauty. I'm very fond of miniature paintings in general. Your post kept me occupied for an hour. Ah, that tenderly erotic painting by Riza 'Abbasi. So interesting to learn about and see the Western and Turkish influence in some Persian miniatures. didn't know that.

Surprised there aren't really fabulous collections of this art on the web, but it's all scattered and the images aren't in very good resolution and one has to squint, barely able to see those incredibly painted details.

Adding to the Persian theme from peacay's spectacular art blog, BibliOdyssey, Persian Zodiac and Zoomorphic Calligraphy.

The Mughal miniatures are also wonderful and similar to the Persian ones. (Mughals were Persians who invaded India from the mid-1500's on, so Mughal art was transported Persian art and later influenced a bit by Hindu art).

I was wondering why there were Iranian (Persian) figurative paintings but not other figurative art by Muslims. Googled this snippet.

Extract from a modern novel, by Orhan Pamuk.

"Why did they all believe that painting would bar them from the gates of Heaven?"

"You know quite well why! Because they remembered Our Prophet's warning that on Judgement Day, Allah will punish painters most severely."

"Not painters," corrected Enishte Effendi. "Those who make idols. And this not from the Koran but from Bukhari."

"On Judgement Day, the idol makers will be asked to bring the images they've created to life," I said cautiously. "Since they'll be unable to do so their lot will be to suffer the torments of Hell. Let it not be forgotten that in the Glorious Koran, 'creator' is one of the attributes of Allah. It is Allah who is creative, who brings that which is not into existence, who gives life to the lifeless. No one ought to compete with Him. (...)

And then read this Wiki bit on Aniconism in Islam.
posted by nickyskye at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Beautiful work: brings to mind the wonderful book illustrations of French artist Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), including The Arabian Nights (1907) and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1909) — image gallery links here.
posted by cenoxo at 8:36 PM on October 27, 2007

That book nickyskye is quoting from is My Name is Red. It's a very good read: not a very exciting murder mystery, but with lots of great stuff on the differences between Islamic and Western art forms and the worldviews that produced them.
posted by BinGregory at 10:22 PM on October 27, 2007

nickyskye - Venice and the Islamic world.
posted by adamvasco at 5:01 AM on October 28, 2007

Here's what I like: When museums (as my local museum did a few years back) photorgraph these Persian miniatures, and blow them up to poster size and larger. Whoa! It's a revelation. There's more beauty in these then you could ever appreciate, straining to study them in small scale. We have the technology to do this, why not make it a mass-movement, and fill our museums with blow-ups of Persian miniatures? It would re-write the history of art.
posted by Faze at 6:17 AM on October 28, 2007

Thanks for the tip and review BinGregory. Sounds like my kind of read.

Thanks adamvasco! :) Hey man, some turban but check out the head gear on this guy, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent Wearing a Jewel-Studded Helmet. whoa. Was he out to kill the enemy or razzle razzle them?
posted by nickyskye at 7:49 AM on October 28, 2007

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