Islamic Miniatures

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Islamic Miniatures. Paintings in Gold. World Map. Red box marks the area of Central and West Asia. Central and West Asia. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Text of Islamic Miniatures

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Islamic MiniaturesPaintings in Gold

World MapRed box marks the area of Central and West Asia.

Central and West AsiaCentral and West Asia come under the control of the Timurids (1370-1507), who rule over a large and important region for just over a hundred years. Encompasses present-day Afghanistan, China (Xinjiang Province), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, eastern Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

Important FactsThe Timurids were the final great dynasty to emerge from the Central Asian steppe. By bringing craftsmen from different conquered lands to his capital in Samarqand, Timur initiated one of the most brilliant periods in Islamic artPerhaps the most outstanding characteristic of Islamic art is the fondness for all-over surface decoration.

Album leaf, 17th century; OttomanTurkeyInk, colors, and gold on paper 9 5/8 x 7 in. (24.3 x 17.9 cm)Louis V. Bell Fund, 1967 (


The Four Basic Components of Islamic Ornament

Mosque lamp, first quarter of 16th century; OttomanAnatolia (Iznik)Composite body, opaque white glaze, underglaze painted H. 6 5/8 (16.8 cm), W. 5 11/16 in. (14.5 cm)Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1959 (59.69.3)

Vegetal Patterns

The upper register shows a pattern of alternating blossoms and buds within a scrolling vine, and the lower register has a floral scroll with a six-petaled rosette.

The Four Basic Components of Islamic Ornament

Tile with an image of a phoenix, Ilkhanid period (12061353) late 13th centuryIran, probably Takht-i SulaimanStonepaste; modeled, underglaze painted in blue and turquoise, luster painted on opaque white ground H. 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm), W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.49.4)

Geometric Patterns

The Four Basic Components of Islamic Ornament

Tile assemblage, first half of 13th century; SeljuqAnatoliaComposite body, overglaze-painted Max. Diam. 9 3/16 in. (23.3 cm)Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack A. Josephson, 1976 (1976.245)

The Four Basic Components of Islamic Ornament

Figural RepresentationAnimal and Human

Dappled Stallion, late 16th centuryHabib Allah (Mashhad and Isfahan, Iran, late 16thearly 17th century)Mashhad, IranInk, opaque colors, and gold on paper 11 7/8 x 8 in. (19.7 x 12.7 cm)Purchase, Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, The Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection, Edward J. Gallagher Jr. Bequest and Richard S. Perkins and Margaret Mushekian Gifts, 1992 (1992.51)

"Layla and Majnun in School", Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizami (probably 11411217)

Binding: From a manuscript of the Mantiq al-Tayr (The Language of the Birds) of Farid al-Din cAttar, ca. 1600; SafavidIran (Isfahan)Tooled and stamped leather on paper, gold, opaque watercolor 23 3/10 x 13.1/10 in. (59.2 x 33.2 cm)Fletcher Fund, 1963 (63.210.67)

View of the manuscript containing Layla and Majnun at School

The production of illustrated books was concentrated in royal workshops because of the large expense involved. Many rulers were connoisseurs who collected books and paintings by famous artists. Books were also financial investments, donated toward the endowment of charitable foundations, and status symbols, presented as gifts between heads of state.

Khusrau Seated on his Throne, Folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of NizamiNizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) (probably 11411217) Calligrapher: Sultan Muhammad Nur (ca. 1472ca. 1536 and Mahmud Muzahhib Artist: Painting by Shaikh Zada Folio from an illustrated manuscript Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Dimensions: Page: H. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm) W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)

A School SceneIran, 15301550Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper37.2 x 23.9 cmArthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian InstitutionPurchaseSmithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian CollectionsAcquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, s1986.221 This painting illustrates a number of finely detailed scenes that take place in a madrasa (school), including a master teaching his students, a group of students copying text, a craftsman making paper, and several men cooking.

A School Scene, detailFirst, artists needed to make paper.

In the Islamic world, paper was made from rags of linen and hemp, not tree pulp. The rags were cut into strips and softened in limewater, then pounded into a pulp and soaked in a vat. To form a sheet of paper, a rectangular mold was placed into the vat and then left to dry. The water seeped out and the page hardened in the mold. Decorative touches were often added to the paper: some were tinted, some were sprinkled with gold, and others were marbled. Marbled papers were created by dispensing drops of colorant onto the surface of a water bath and running combs through the drops to create a pattern; a sheet of paper was then laid on the surface of the bath to absorb the colors. After drying, the paper was prepared to receive ink and paint with the application of a starchy solution that rendered the surface smooth and nonporous.

A scribe then prepared his ink (made of carbon boiled with gallnuts), made his pens, and pressed guidelines into the paper. He then copied the text, leaving spaces for illustrations where the director of the workshop had indicated.

A School Scene, detail

Artist MaterialsPen box, 13th centuryWestern Iran or northern Iraq (al-Jazira)Brass inlaid with gold and silver H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm), L. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm)Gift of Mrs. Lucy W. Drexel, 1889 (89.2.194)


lapis lazuli


Mineral sources were gold, silver, lapis lazuli, ground cinnabar (for vermilion), orpiment (for yellow), and malachite (for green). These materials were expensive and substitutes were often used. Indigo was a common source of dark blue and azurite was used for a lighter blue. Verdigris produced green, and lead or a combination of mercury and sulfur created red.

After the text was completed, the pages passed to the painters. Most manuscripts were the work of a number of artists, each chosen to illustrate a particular scene; some artists, for instance, were known for their portraits, others for their battle scenes. A single page might also represent a collaborative effort, as junior artists were called upon to fill in backgrounds and landscapes. Before starting to paint, the artist laid out the composition with a very fine brush.

"Nushirvan Eating Food Brought by the Sons of Mahbud", Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (9351020) Object Name:Folio from an illustrated manuscript1330sIran, TabrizInk, opaque watercolor, and gold on paperPage: H. 20 3/4 in. (52.7 cm) W. 15 1/8 in. (38.4 cm) Painting: H. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm) W. 9 1/8 in. (23.2 cm) Mat: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) W. 16 in. (40.6 cm)

Afghanistan School ChildrenImages form schools in more recent times.

Compare Then and NowWhat about your school? How would you paint a detail of it?