The Iranian Miniature

Issue #2 • 2350

In April, 2002 the Exhibition of Miniatures of the artists from Uzbekistan and Iran was held in Tashkent. The Art of Miniature occurred as illustration to literary works. Play of words and deepness of philosophical ideas, high ethic ideals and love for all creatures of Nature, various verses and rhythms of stanzas, complicated by style and imagery, typical of classic oriental literature were extremely difficult to be reproduced by means of painting and illustrators of the medieval Orient found a specific art style and system of images, which perfectly corresponded to the poetic style, some visual equivalent to Word and Idea that based on general ideological – aesthetic and ethic concepts of that epoch, of poet and artists striving to withdraw a man out vanity of being and to turn him to the spirit, to make him to think about the Eternity and to touch the Beauty.

Iran was one of the centers of miniature art. After the Islamic revolution in Iran this art, as the brightest reflection of religious mentality and manifestation of national spirit, was revived. Centuries have passed… The manuscript was substituted first by lithographic book, and then by printed book but the art of miniature did not die. Earlier hidden inside thick manuscript’s folios and accessible just to corps d’elite (the art of miniature always was a court art), it migrated to walls and other surfaces having transformed into original kind of the applied arts – small by size story masterpieces on paper, cartoon and leather.

Now the Iranian miniature art survives its blossoming. There are several art colleges, the Association of Miniature, independent and state universities, the institute of fine arts in Teheran and other cities where miniaturists, ornamentalists and calligraphers are trained. Such famous and recognized masters as Mahmud Farschien, Mukhammad Tadjvidiy, Mukhammad Ali Zoviye and others teach there.

A leading center of the modern Iranian art is Isfahan, the beautiful and ancient city with own strong and original school of miniature having been formed already in the XVII century. Here annually are held festivals and exhibitions of applied arts where miniaturists take active part. Though the majority of their works meet market needs, there are perfect masterpieces, which can decorate the best galleries of the world.

The Exhibition of the Iranian Miniature in the Exhibition Hall of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan exposed that modern Iranian miniature, like in our republic, develops in two key directions: first of all, imitation, up to copying, of compositions of the traditional schools, Herat, Tabriz, Shiraz and especially Isfahan school of the XVII century as well as the Kadjar style, and, second, free interpretation of methods of medieval Oriental painting and creative imagination.

The pieces of the Iranian artists, Mahmud Farschien, Amir Tahmosbiy-zade, Masud Khunarqor and Mehrzamon Farrokh Munfarid, exposed at the Exhibition, have been done within the course of these trends and reflected entire complex of problems existing in modern miniature art.

Miniature reflects universal link of the God and man. Thought of the artist is out of material world and strives to the Space. Only things existing in transcendent world are worthy to be painted but no words and paints are able to transmit the highest wisdom of the Eternity. Picture is just weak reflection of divine world; therefore a key function of art is to cause correspondent associations by means of color and lines. In the miniature art, as illustration to literary work, word and image are inseparable and mutually inspire each other. This is an art for esoteric, and miniatures of the artist are correspondent to ideas of the poet. From here – the conventions of style in all its compositional elements; from here – symbolism of miniatures, their canons and iconography, meaning of which is accessible only for the esoteric – the others see just exterior form in them. In modern Iran this is a special kind of religious art having secular form. Therefore religious themes are leading here.

Theme and genre of the modern Iranian miniature reflect national and aesthetic values, the religious mentality. The great importance among them belongs to classic Persian poetry glorifying the heroic past (“Shah-nameh” of Firdowsi), illustrations to ghazals and beits, to publications of Hafiz Saadi, Nizami “Khusrow and Shirin” and others; historical events, portraits in the Isfahan or Kadjar styles and free fantasy on poetic subjects; images of the saints and prophets; eternal theme of Love, Good and Evil, Life and Death.

Iranian artists create amazingly beautiful compositions where fantastic and realty are intermixed. Performed in aquarelle, Indian ink and oil paint, they are extremely beautiful in the pictorial aspect, and virtuosity of lines boggles imagination. The colour compositions of Mahmud Farschien, a founder of the modern style of Iranian miniature eclectically combining national traditions and European impressionism, have extremely fantastic character. Farschien is the first modern artist who separated this art from literary source and transformed it in absolutely new art, in which personal perception and vision prevail over traditions and canons. Later many artists supported this trend. We can see development of this line in creativity of Amir Tahmosbiy-zade whose works are pointed out by expressive lines and amazing treasure of colour combining with the finest calligraphic pattern.

Masud Khunarkor imitating iconography of Rezaini Abbasi prefers to work in the style of the Isfahan miniature of the XVII century. At the Exhibition there are his miniatures exposing winged horses “kalamgiri” with intense lines creating volume and forms. Along with thematic painting an important place in the modern Iranian miniature belongs to the genre having come from China and becoming extremely popular from the time of the Kadjar dynasty – “tazhib a tashir” (“flowers and birds”). Splendid compositions of various flowers, roses, tulips, irises, chrysanthemums, grenadines and others with pictures of mourning doves or singing nightingales winded into illuminate book binding or, being framed with rich ornamental borders, decorate interior. Among the artists working in this genre there are Aka Reza Agamyriy, Saiyd Reza Fattahi and Mehrzamon Fahhor Munfarid, about whom it is worthy to say separately.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran women play a great role in social life not only as keepers of hearth and home, religious canons and ethic, but as transmitters of cultural, including spiritual, traditions. After the revolution of 1979 their social role has become more important. They participate in different fields of activity.

In culture, particularly in the miniature painting, a lot of women work; their masterpieces are exhibited both in Iran and abroad. Works of Leila Agamyiriy, Zahro Namvar, Hazila Kakhramon Dahr, Selina Puriya, Rioya Mirbod and others are in many art collections of the world.

Mehrzamon Fahhor Munfarid was born in 1953 in the city of Rea. Now her life and work are closely linked to Teheran where she got special art education. The artist tries to work in all genres and kinds of miniature, and at the Exhibition her works outstood by rich variety: lyric compositions, portraits, illustrations to literary works or images inspired by classic poetry. The subjects connected with her native city of Rea occupy a special place in her work. In compositions on historical theme Mehrzamon-khonim follows the style of classic medieval miniature in regard of space composition, painting of architecture and landscape, interpretation of characters with calligraphic elements blended in.

Finesse of line, careful work on details, tenderly drawn ornaments, absolute taste and congenital sense of harmony often equal classic pieces of famous traditional schools. In works on lyric themes the artist follows the standards where couples of lovers are exposed on a background of landscape. In general, the Exhibition of the modern Iranian miniature has demonstrated perfect skill, striving to come out of the circle of determinate standards and search for new ways.

Author: Zukhra Rakhimova

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