Miniature Painting

Islamic miniature painting is generally understood to mean small paintings that are or once were part of a manuscript, used as a frontispiece or an illustration for a text. Drawings and individual paintings have, however, also been preserved. They were either sketches or were intended to be placed as independent works of art in an album.

The miniatures usually had a paper base, but cardboard and in rare cases cotton or silk cloth were also used. The brilliant colors are usually opaque.

The oldest preserved miniature paintings were made in around the year 1000, but not until around 1200 were they found in larger numbers. Islamic miniature painting is often categorized rather summarily into four regional schools: the Arab, the Persian, the Indian, and the Ottoman Turkish.

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Islamic Art: Miniature painting

Overview page 1 of 5
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Fragment of a painting on paper. “A Harpy”
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Miniature from volume 20 of a copy of Abu’l-Faraj al-Isfahani’s Kitab al-Aghani
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Miniature from a copy of Kitab al-hashaish, an Arabic translation of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica. “The Doctor’s Office”
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Miniature from a copy of Kitab al-hashaish, an Arabic translation of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica.
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Miniature from a copy of Kitab al-hashaish an Arabic translation of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica. “Viper’s Bugloss”
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Miniature from a copy of Kitab al-hashaish, an Arabic translation of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica. “An English Catchfly and a Gazelle”
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Miniature from a copy of al-Jazari’s Kitab fi marifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya. “Machine Pouring Wine”
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Miniature from a furusiyya manuscript. “A Mamluk Training with a Lance”
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Miniature from a copy of Firdawsi’s Shah-nama. “Mubad-i Mubadan Brings Food to the Captive Vizier Izad-i Gashasp”
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Miniature from a copy of Bidpai’s Kalila wa Dimna. “The Fox and the Drum"
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Miniature from a copy of Firdawsi’s Shah-nama made for Qiwamuddawla wa’l-Din Hasan. “Iskandar Contemplates the Peoples Gog and Magog”
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A copy of Nizami’s Makhzan al-asrar, the first book in his Khamsa. Copied by Mir Ali ibn al-Yasi al-Tabrizi al-Bawargi
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Double frontispiece painting from a copy of Firdawsi’s Shah-nama. “A Princely Couple with Courtiers in a Garden”
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Miniature from Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi’s Kitab suwar al-kawakib. “The Constellation Gemini”
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A copy of Farid al-din Attar’s Mantiq al-tayr
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Partly colored drawing. “Mounted Falconer Hunting Ducks”
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Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”
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Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “A Giant Fish Rescues Abu Ubayda and his Men from Dying of Starvation”
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Miniature from a copy of Firdawsi’s Shah-nama. “Jamshid is Borne on his Throne into the Air by Demons”
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Drawing pasted on an album leaf with calligraphy. “Two Wild Boars”
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Miniature from a copy of Firdawsi’s Shah-nama. “Rakhsh Kills an Attacking Lion While Rustam Sleeps”
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Miniature from a copy of Nizami’s Khamsa. “Iskander Watching the Sirens”
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Miniature from a copy of al-Sarai’s Nahj al-Faradis (The Paths of Paradise). “The Prophet Muhammad Encounters the Angel of Prayer as a White Cockerel” (recto)
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Miniature from a copy of al-Sarai’s Nahj al-Faradis (The Paths of Paradise). “The Prophet Muhammad Before the Angel with Seventy Heads” (recto)
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Miniature from a copy of al-Sarai’s Nahj al-Faradis (The Paths of Paradise). “The Prophet Muhammad at the Gates of Paradise” (verso)