Persian Art

Topic 2: Persian Art

  • The region of Persia, now known as Iran, has a long and rich cultural legacy dating back to ancient times, exemplified by the ancient capital of Persepolis. In the Muslim era, the Turkish Seljuk dynasty made the city of Isfahan their capital and built its influential great mosque.

  • Persian art and culture enjoyed a golden age under the Timurid and Safavid dynasties. Painting, architecture, and the decorative arts flourished. Persian artists were receptive to Chinese influences, and in turn exercised a powerful influence on the arts of Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India.

  • Miniature painting - small paintings on paper, either manuscript illustrations or individual works - became one of the characteristic Persian art forms. The small scale and private nature of miniature painting helped circumvent any unease arising from the Islamic ban on depicting the human figure in religious contexts, and figurative art flourished in Timurid and Safavid Persia. Persian artists were influenced by the decorative arts of China, and by Chinese and Central Asian wall painting.

  • Characteristics of Persian miniature painting include the use of sharply defined areas of bright, pure color and the exacting depiction of detail in both background and foreground; these distinguish Persian painting from European painting, which emphasized the use of shadow and atmospheric perspective to create a sense of depth. Subject matter included scenes from legend, history, and courtly life, while gold ornamentation added a sense of luxury.

  • The workshops of the princely courts produced elaborate decorative arts as well, and the motifs and designs created at court were applied throughout the region. Many of the designs woven into the famous rugs of Persia, still highly prized today, originated in this way. As in the Middle East, Persian tiles, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles were ofen traded and collected far from their point of origin.

Related Links:
West & Central Asia Quiz
Central Asian Buddhist Art
AP Art History Quizzes
AP Art History Notes