Tabriz School

Tabriz School


a Middle Eastern school of miniature painting that originated in Tabriz, in what is now the northwestern Iranian province of Eastern Azerbaijan. Its earliest works date from the late 13th and early 14th centuries, when Rashidaddin assembled artists and calligraphers in Tabriz to copy and illuminate manuscripts. The Shah-nameh miniatures (Boston Museum of Fine Arts and other collections), which are noted for their expressiveness, particularly in the depiction of dramatic scenes, were painted in the 1330’s and 1340’s.

The Tabriz school reached its apogee in the first half of the 16th century, after the Safavids came to power. Its masters worked mostly from local artistic traditions but also incorporated styles and techniques developed by miniaturists of other schools in the Middle East. In 1522, K. Behzad was made head of the court library. Among the most renowned figures of the Tabriz school were Soltan Muhammad, Mirza Ali, Aqa Mirak Esfahani, Mir Seyyed Ali, and Sadiqi-beq Afshar.

The school’s mature works are characterized by a combination of representational and decorative elements. Landscape is treated not as a conventional backdrop but as an organic part of the composition. An interest in achieving a lifelike representation of images is evident, as is the development of genre details. There is, above all, a subtle and rhythmic treatment of brilliant colors.

In addition to manuscript illuminations, the Tabriz school also created miniatures on separate leaves, depicting young men of the nobility. The school began to decline after the Safavid capital was transferred, first to Qazvin and then to Isfahan (seeISFAHAN SCHOOL OF MINIATURES).