Climbing down - culture up, that's december in four words for me. Anyway, islam does not allow to paint faces, isn't that one of those overwhelming stereotypes out there? Or at least that's what I took from St Sophia's visit in Istanbul. Calligraphy is sacred, images are profane. And what about this?
For me, it's talent, and an incredible one. I got wind of Bihzad, the 16th century master from Herat, in "My name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk creates strong images of the master that forces blindness upon himself in the end of his life as he refuses to paint for new rulers of the land. But he did paint during several years before. Even though few of his original works remain, his following was great during the flourishing years of the miniature art, in Persia, India and the Ottoman empire.
Concerning the above painting of a scene in a hamam, notice composition and color style, diagonal lines that a little bit later Rubens will also introduce in his paintings when he brings action back from Italy to the Flanders. Decoration is realized precisely to the pixel, Matisse would have been proud to introduce these textiles in his paintings. No wonder it is said that the biggest glory for a miniature painter in those days was to go blind before dying.
Incredible execution again, each leaf is painted separately and has a different color pattern. It is also interesting to note how Chinese painting has been blended with arab inspiration to create these gems. To start with, paper came from china - and than ink and ink paintings - and calligraphy as well. Thanks again to Pamuk and his books that unveiled these paintings - at least to me. Another website with more information on Bihzad and his work here.
Interesting to note that Persan miniature never discovered perspective despite Venice being just a sea-journey away. But the theory behind it is that miniaturists tried to paint the world as God would see it and not as we, humans, do. That is one of the reasons why individual features never really made it into the miniature world, and why this art was tolerated and even adored for a time by muslim elite.
Here is one last miniature, probably by Aqa Mirak:
Notice how the tree integrates the frame and how there are several pictures in the picture here. Composition, that almost resembles an altar painting by Van Dyck, and japanese-style spring flowers, white on the right, and rose-red on the left.
Each miniature was supposed to accompany a text and a story. During wars and conquests, miniatures would be torn out of books and recomposed into new volumes, with new owners sometimes painted over old sheik or sultan representations. That is one of the reasons why it is very difficult to find who/when/why painted a specific piece. In conclusion i'd love to visit soon a miniature exposition to see at least some of these in real as internet pictures do even less justice to these works than more usual western paintings.