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Persian Art & Paintings

Persian Paintings

New stylistic features came with the growing Chinese influence during the Mongol occupation of Iran in the late thirteenth century. (Persian literature speaks of China as the “picture house,” where Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, acts as the master painter.) Henceforward, illustrative painting developed predominantly in Iran, where the great epic poems (an art form unknown to the Arabs) inspired miniaturists through the centuries to the extent that the iconography of Firdausi’s Shah-namah (Book of kings) and Nizami’s Khamsah (Quintet) became almost standardized. Early historical works, such as the world history of Rashid al-Din (d. 1317), were rather realistically illustrated in Persian paintings.

Islamic painting reached its zenith in Iran and India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when, partly under the influence of European prints, naturalistic portraiture was developed to perfection. The Mughal emperor Jahangir (reigned, 1605—1627) inspired the court painters to express his dreams of spiritual world-rule in his portraits by using the motif of the lion and the lamb lying together, or by showing him in the company of Sufis.

Aspects of Persian Painting:

Perisan painting has borrowed many elements from Chinese art. They include most of the conventions used in the representation of landscape, trees, and flowers, and animals. It is also to classical Chinese painting that Persian miniatures owe some of their conventions in the representation of emaciated young men and women in long robes with oval faces projecting forward from flat bodies.

Human Figures in Persian Paintings:

As for human figures in Persian miniature painting, they are usually thin and svelte with oval heads and a minimum of signs to identify the eyes, nose, and mouth. The poses are almost always the same, with the head a little forward from the body and sometimes, for women, a whole body leaning to the side. Most faces are in three-quarter view. The differentiation between men and women is indicated by the hair, the presence or absence of beard and mustache, and details of clothing, especially headgear.

Depiction of Architecture in Persian Paintings:

The Persian artist conceived a meticulous architecture, demanded by the subject of the image. In most cases the architecture is reduced to a large tripartite façade with a big eyvan or iwan (a vaulted room open to the exterior) and two wings. This eyvan can be shown in depth and sometimes reveals a sense of perspective. Usually, however, it appears in two dimensions, like a curtain at the back of the stage.

The major modes of Persian painting are best explained it they are viewed as the expression of an ideal of aristocratic, princely life. The beautiful gardens with their kiosks and feasts of all kinds were a part of this life.