Iranian tradition of painting has its roots in the ancient civilizations that flourished in the plateau of this country before the sixth millenium BC. Such designs as those on earthenware, delicate carvings on seals and rock-relief are all sources of this tradition. It is only after about 753 AD, when paper was introduced into Iran that this tradition found its way into this new medium.
Evidence of Iranian paintings on paper became more frequent from 1200 AD onwards. Earlier forms of primitive painting can be noted on pottery. A whole world of details can be seen on slip-painted and buffware of Neishapur of the 11th century AD, or the various glazed and minai ware of the Saljuqid period. All these indicate that by this period early native traditions under the influence of the Mesopotamian art, having been enriched with Chinese ideas introduced by objects brought over by traders, created an art with its own uniform and intrinsic characteristics.
Iranian artists from the beginning were eager to use their creativity in illustrating books. However, it is very likely that because of the Islam's dislike of portrait painting artists were obliged to show their talent in miniature painting. This sort of painting gradually found its own rules and traditions that became a definite part of this style of painting. An artist was not concerned with projecting his own personality or conveying a personal message in his creation. Instead his subjects had to be presented clearly, beautifully and effectively, conveying the message of the story, and did not necessarily reflect the reality. Perspective was of no great importance. Shadows and modeling were the rule, and color, its selection, organization and composition become an art in itself.
From around 16th century AD onwards miniature painting as a separate artwork intended for mounting in albums become fashionable. This fashion and the gradual influence from Europe lead to the creation of large paintings of the 18th century AD and the interest in portrait painting also appeared on objects during the Qajar period.
In each atelier painters, binders, gilders, apprentices, designers, outliners and calligraphers from various social backgrounds worked in their trade. Their products went to royal patrons and interested individuals that could buy their works. Every artist prepared his own tools, based on secrets passed to him by his ancestors.
The paintings of this gallery are arranged to provide a glimpse of some of the important schools and trends that existed from ca. 1400 AD to the 1900 AD. This exhibition takes you to a perfect, exquisite and fascinating world of colors, details, techniques and stories.