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The Mongols; Ilkhans Contd.

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1387 - 1502

The Timurids Contd.

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One hundred and fifty years after the Mongols first invaded Iran, Timur the Lame's ("Tamerlane", a conqueror scarcely less fearsome than his ancestor Genghis Khan) armies swept into Iran from the north-east. Craftsmen were spared from the massacres and transported to his capital, Samarkand, which they beautified with spectacular buildings, including now vanquished palaces with wall paintings depicting Timur's victories.

In the time of Shah Rukh and Oleg Begh the art of miniature reached such a degree of perfection that it served as a model for all subsequent schools of painting in Persia. The most notable feature of the new Timurid style (although derived from the earlier Ilkhan period) is a new conception of space.

In miniature painting, the horizon is placed high so that different planes are formed in which are arranged, almost in perspective, objects, figures, trees, flowers and architectural motifs. This enabled the artist to paint larger groups with greater variety and spacing, and without overcrowding.

Khusraw at Shirin's palace, from a Khamsah by Nezami

Khusraw at Shirin's palace, from a Khamsah by Nezami. Turkoman, Tabriz, late 15th century

Everything is calculated; these are images that demand a great deal from the viewer, and they do not yield up their secrets lightly.

Two of the most influential schools were in Shiraz, and Herat.

Under the patronage of Sultan Ibrahim (1414 - 35) the school of Shiraz, basing itself upon the earlier Timurid style, created a highly stylised manner of painting in which bright and vigorous colours predominated. The compositions were simple and contained few figures.

Hunting scene from Humay and Humayun of Khajoo Kermani

Hunting scene from Humay and Humayun of Khajoo Kermani. Timurid, Shiraz, 1427.

The same city was later a major centre for the Turkoman style dubbed after the ruling dynasty of western and southern Iran. Characteristics of this style are the rich dramatic colours, and the elaborate design, which make all the elements in the painting become part of an almost decorative scheme. This style extended into the early Safavid period but seems to have faded out toward the middle of the 16th century. The most important works of the school are the 155 miniatures of the Khavar-nama by Ibn-Husam, which date back to 1480.

Scene from Khavar-nama

Scene from Khavar-nama , Iran 1477. The work is a poem dealing with the exploits of Ali against the kings of the East.

The first Herat miniatures were in form, a more perfect version of the early Timurid style, which had blossomed at the beginning of the century. Under the patronage of the last Timurid prince, Sultan Hussain ibn Mansur ibn Baiqara (1468 - 1506), Herat flourished as never before and many believe that it was here that Persian painting reached its climax.

Their style is distinguished by sumptuous colours, an almost incredible precision of detail, perfect unity of composition, striking individual characterisation of the human figure, and an utmost sensibility in conveying atmosphere from the solemn to the playfulness of narrative painting. The great masterpieces of the Herat school that survive include two copies of the Kalila wa Dimna (a collection of animal fables with moral and political applications), the Golestan ('Rose Garden') by Sa'di (1426) and at least one Shah-nama (1429).

A scene from Kalila wa Dimna

Dimna visited in prison by Kalila, from Kalila wa Dimna. Herat 1429.


Persian Art Through The Centuries

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Persian History

Persian Art
Through The Centuries

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Persian History
The Timurids

Copyright © 1999 K. Kianush, Art Arena