Persian Miniature: Really Tiny Art

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12211

Ask ancient Persian artists if they could paint, and they might say, "A little." That's not far from the truth. They perfected the art of gorgeous miniature paintings that often told long stories!


Visual Arts, World Religions

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Here’s a challenge for you: On a piece of paper, draw the tiniest possible drawing that you can, so long as another person would be able to identify what you were trying to draw. How small can you go?

The visual arts were restricted by certain religious beliefs and laws in the Islamic world.

There was a ban on showing images of God, the Prophet, or other sacred figures, and a more general prohibition against representing other living things. This ban, however, was not universal, and the astonishing art of Persian miniature painting thrived at different points in Islamic history.

If you missed, or need to review, the previous Islamic Art lesson, catch it in the right-hand sidebar under Related Lessons.

Persian miniature painting is just what it sounds like: the depiction of small, very detailed scenes created with the tiniest of brushstrokes, vivid colors, and a lot of patience.

Come and explore more about this art form! Read an article about the history of Persian miniature, then watch a video to see just how these paintings are produced. As you read and watch, write down information and ideas to answer the following questions:

  • What features, materials, and techniques are used in Persian miniature painting?
  • What distinguishes this type of painting from other methods of painting?
  • What were some of the cultural and historical influences on Persian miniature painting?
  • What was Persian miniature painting used to depict?

Read Persian miniatures illustrated historic manuscripts from Jasper52. Then, watch an Artist Demonstration: Persian Miniature Painting, courtesy of Harvard Art Museums:

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Share your findings with your parent or teacher, then reflect on the following questions and discuss:

  • What skills do you think are needed to do this kind of painting?
  • What kind of training do you think is required to become an accomplished painter of miniatures?
  • Is it strictly accurate to call this form of painting “Persian”? Why or why not?

Painters of Persian miniatures were and are highly-skilled and highly-trained artists. In the old days, they were commissioned by wealthy patrons to illustrate the most important religious events and the most beloved stories.

In the Got It? section, take a look at some of the amazing illustrations and the epic stories they depicted.

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