Iranian painting since the first centuries of this civilization, was inspired by the mythical and cultic beliefs before and after the arrival of Islam. "Natural landscaping" is frequently found in representations (painting, miniature).

Iranian Painting

Iranian painting since the first centuries of this civilization, was inspired by the mythical and cultic beliefs before and after the arrival of Islam. "Natural landscaping" is frequently found in representations (painting, miniature), and is a necessary part of the aesthetic judgment of artists and derives from the beliefs of the Iranian people.

Naturalism and the rapprochement of human with nature have emerged since the ancient period in the arts and architecture of Iran. The course of houses and gardens, often represented with streams, birds and plant varieties, reflect the opinion of many experts, the "gardens of Eden", the Paradise. This model of garden design observe also in the pre-Islamic arts of Iran: constructions close to water sources and gardens, such as Pasargades (tomb of Cyrus the Great) and the few Sassanid palace gardens.
The Iranians paid attention both to the embellishment of the interior and to the exterior spaces. This habit is also used in painting: images representing an interior scene often include an opening (a window, a door) to the outside which allows to draw some elements of nature such as the sky, a tree or a mountain in the background ...) Thus Iranian thought, inseparable from nature, embellishes its environment with natural beauties.


The Persian miniature

The themes of the Persian miniature are mostly related to Persian mythology and poetry. Western artists especially discovered the Persian miniature at the beginning of the 20th century. The Persian miniatures use pure geometry and a palette of vivid colors. The particular aspect of the Persian miniature lies in the fact that it absorbs the complexities and it succeeds surprisingly to deal with such questions as the nature of art and perception in its masterpieces.

It is difficult to trace the origins of the art of the Persian miniature, which reached its peak during the Mongolian and Timurid periods (12th and 16th centuries). The Mongolian rulers of Persia spread the cult of Chinese painting and brought it with them, like a number of Chinese craftsmen. The paper itself came from China in 751, first in the region of Samarkand and Tashkent, then in 753 in present Iran, reaching Baghdad in 794. The Chinese influence is therefore very strong on this art.

Various invasions of the Mongols crossed Persia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, leaving behind a long trail of blood. Paradoxically, the new Mongolian masters proved to be genuine protectors of the arts. The Timurid dynasty (1369-1507) is characterized by the patronage of its sovereigns in architecture and arts; the period is so rich from the cultural point of view that it is called the Timurid Renaissance. We know a state similar to this one in Europe: The Renaissance.

The Persian miniature is an art of illumination that seeks illumination in the Sufi sense of the term. Souren Malikian-Chirvani, art historian of Iran and currently research director emeritus in the Department of Humanities and Society of the CNRS is of the opinion that "For Iran, the world that the West called "real", is only the metaphor of the higher reality of the spiritual world.”

Persian manuscript painting proceeds from the poetry which nourishes it entirely. Around the year 1000, the Châh-nâmeh (The Book of Kings), the founding cosmogonic epic composed by the poet Ferdowsi, relates the history of the kings of Iran from the creation of the world to the last Sassanid prince defeated by the Arabs in 637. In the 12th century, the Sufi Nezami, in a book of Five Poems of Love, then Saadi of Shiraz in 13th century in his Boustan (Orchard), a collection of anecdotal poems to better meditate on physical and mystical love. It is these poems that, for nearly 500 years, will make the bed of painting and inspire miniaturist artists. No artist has ever been as revered as Behzad in the Muslim world. With him, the Persian miniature emerged from its sparkling prehistory to inaugurate a triumphant golden age. The 15th century was a turning point in this art which will make it an unassailable model for all schools of painting in the Arab world.