Miniature painting

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Miniature painting is an expression for small and very small paintings . Miniature painting has developed - depending on the painting ground and subject - into an independent style in three forms:

Miniature by Jacques Augustin on ivory (8 cm); 1799

Medieval book illustrations

→ Main article Illumination .

Miniatures are pen and brush drawings in the form of ornamentation (e.g. decorations on the edge of the sheet, design of the initial letters) and figurative representations that decorate valuable manuscripts from the Middle Ages. The name is derived from minium , the Latin word for the red pigment red lead . The use of minium in manuscripts can be traced back to the Egyptian books of the dead. It was applied to parchment as a covering color, a kind of tempera painting . With the possibility of paper production , the paintings were designed with opaque ( gouache ) or glazed ( watercolor ) watercolors - also as grisaille and sometimes with the use of gold leaf .

Famous in this context is the Islamic miniature painting , which actually only existed in profane manuscripts, since the Koran always focused on calligraphy - but sometimes with ornamental decoration. The oldest examples of Arabic miniature painting are around 1000 years old. Profane manuscripts were decorated here with scenic miniatures - sometimes from edge to edge. This art form reached its peak in the 13th century AD. The school of Baghdad was important here, the artistic influence of which extended to northern Iraq and Syria. In the 14th and 15th centuries, this art form flourished again under the Mamlukes in Egypt and Syria.

Persian miniature painting has been found in manuscripts since the 13th century and reached its peak in the 15th century under the Timurids . One of the masterpieces of Ottoman miniature painting is the Surname-i Hümayun , which was produced by Nakkaş Osman in 1582 in collaboration with the court historian Seyyīd Loḳmān.

Small pictures

Miniatures here are small pictures, mostly portraits , often painted on ivory and framed.


One of the well-known larger German collections of miniatures is the Tansey Collection managed by the Bomann Museum in Celle .

Miniature masters

Lieutenant Botha; (Miniature painting by Moritz Michael Daffinger , around 1815)






His portrait of Princess Melanie Metternich, the third wife of the former Austrian Foreign Minister Klemens Wenzel Metternich , was sold to a Russian collector at Christie's in London at the end of November 2007 for £ 36,500.





  • Behzād (born between 1460 and 1466; died 1535/1536)

Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey)


In ancient Ethiopia , painting, which offered an unmistakably unique style, was of great importance in contrast to sculpture. Religious painting was also predominant in miniature painting and book writing until the middle of the 19th century. The early (anonymous) masters of Ethiopian miniature painting were therefore primarily monks who knew how to write in monasteries and at the imperial court.


  • Claude-Henri Watelet : The Isabey for Amateurs. Or elementary lessons in watercolor and miniature painting. Gropius, Berlin 1840 ( digitized version ).
  • Leo R. Schidlof : The miniature in Europe in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. 4 volumes. Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1964 (English edition) = La miniature en Europe aux 16e, 17e, 18e et 19e siècles. 4 volumes. Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1964 (French edition).
  • Stefanie Kristina Werner: Miniatures. Large painting on a small area, exhibition and inventory catalog of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum . Braunschweig 2010, ISBN 978-3-922279-64-8 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Otto A. Jäger: Miraculous healings in the representation of earlier Ethiopian miniature painting. In: Materia Medica Nordmark. Volume 20, No. 12, December 1968, pp. 653-671.