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

Item no. 10 of 124

Miniature from a copy of Bidpai’s Kalila wa Dimna. “The Fox and the Drum"

Iran, Shiraz; 1333
Leaf: 32.5 × 20.2 cm

A number of manuscripts were made under the Injuids in Shiraz that were clearly influenced by Il-Khanid painting, but also had their own style, with characteristic earth colors and e.g. trees with large flowers. The Indian animal fables told in Kalila wa Dimna should be considered a “mirror for princes,” didactic stories intended to teach young nobles to rule wisely.

We see a fox that has greedily pulled a drum down from a tree, and in doing so driven the birds away that were its actual prey. The fox has just discovered that the drum cannot be eaten, even though it is big and noisy.

Inv. no. 15/2006