Isfahan School of Miniatures

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Isfahan School of Miniatures


one of the main schools of Iranian miniature painting, which arose in the late 16th and early 17th century at the court of Shah Abbas I in Isfahan.

The Isfahan school includes both book illustrations and many portrait and genre miniatures on separate leaves, gathered into albums. To a significant degree, the miniatures of this school have lost the polychromatic vividness and emphatic planarity typical of all earlier Iranian miniature art. The most important feature has become virtuoso drawing, executed in free brushstrokes and delicately washed, which endows the figures with the appearance of three dimensionality and lifelike movement. At the same time, the Isfahan school retains some traditional features: extremely fine elaboration of details and broad use of gold in depicting backgrounds and in ornamentation of costume.

The formation of the Isfahan school’s style is closely related to the works of its greatest representative, Reza Abbasi. In the miniatures of artists of the middle and late 17th century, such as Mohammad Qasem, Afzal al-Hoseyni, Mohammad Yusof, Mohammad Ali, and Moin Mosavver, the figures become larger and the landscape is given a more realistic treatment. In the 1670’s a new tendency formed under the influence of European painting. Its representatives, including the artists Mohammad Zaman, Ali Qoli-bek, and Jabadar, applied chiaroscuro techniques for faces and clothing and a linear airy perspective in depicting scenic backgrounds in their works, which were often on themes from Christian mythology. By the early 18th century, this “Europeanizing” tendency had become predominant.


Denike, B. Zhivopis’ Irana. Moscow, 1938.
Persidskie miniatiury 14–17 vv.: [Al’bom]. Moscow, 1968. (Introductory article by O. F. Akimushkin and A. A. Ivanov.)
Stchoukine, J. Les Peintures des manuscrites de Shah Abbas 1-er a la findesSafavis. Paris, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.