Art Quiz: The Answer is Herat School

The “Herat school” of art was a 15th-century style of miniature painting that developed in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan. This art form was founded by Shah Rokh, the son of Islamic conqueror Tamerlane. In time, Herat became an important center for painting with artists coming to the court from all across Persia and Afghanistan.

Many paintings were done on silk, and illustrations for poems were very common. You will find many scenes inspired by the Persian “Book of Kings” by the poet Ferdowsi.

The Herat style drew on many earlier traditions, including the Tabriz and Shiraz schools of painting. These were mentioned in a previous “Art Quiz” question with links to information on Persian miniature paintings.

One of the most important influences was that of perspective, introduced by the Mongols during the 14th century. According to Encyclopedia Britannica…

In the miniatures of the Herat school, numerous figures, in groups or singly, are shown on various planes, one above the other, using the entire picture area. The juxtaposition of figures and elements of scenery one above the other produced the effect of one appearing to be behind the other.

Figures are often stylized, appearing tall and thin with oblong-shaped heads and pointed beards. They are painted in many different positions and are almost always described taking action. Artists developed strong compositions and included many details. The colors used were bold but not harsh, with a large number of blues and greens.

I wasn’t able to find a lot of images of Herat art. Most of these illustrations were part of manuscripts. Some have been removed from the books in which they were first made and have been transferred to various albums which are kept in Istanbul.
Shown below is an illustration from the Baysonghor Shahnameh, a manuscript commissioned by the sultan Baysunghur in 1430, a few years before his death.
In researching Herat art, I was surprised to find very few resources for further reference. I did find a few books at Amazon on the topic of Persian art, but nothing specific to the Herat style. If you’re interested, you might want to check out these titles:
If you’d like to try creating Persian-styled art, you’ll want to look at this book (below) available to read for free through the Kindle Unlimited program. It offers step by step guidance on drawing leaves and flowers. It is the first book in a series of four, and since I’ve been doing a lot of floral work, I’ve already downloaded it.
Also available is a Persian-Inspired Art and Motif Coloring Book, as well as numerous books on one of the most famous textile art forms, the Persian carpet.
And for your listening pleasure, here is a mix of traditional Persian music selections from YouTube.
I’ll be listening to this as I practice drawing leaves and petals of flowers, learning more about the history of Persian art in a very personal way.

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