Thursday, June 23, 2011


In Tehran, midway on our flight from Tabriz to Mashhad, we visited The Reza Abbasi Museum (a miniaturist and calligrapher from the 17th century) which had a stunning collection of miniature paintings. They weren’t teeny tiny but the workmanship and the startling designs were simply gorgeous. Look at the antelope on the right bounding out of the frame of the picture with such a desire to escape the hunters.

So I was prepared, more or less, for the beautiful work of several miniaturists in Esfahan. In the first shop, Persian Art Gallery, Reza Toghi, one of two miniaturists working in the gallery, demonstrated his skill and speed by drawing a man and his donkey on a small square of black paper in white ink with a minimum of strokes but recognizable in every way. He gave it to a member of our group and she passed it along to me. I am so grateful. You can see it below.

We were then free to look around the showcases and admire both his work and that of his students. Painted on pieces of camel bone, they were incredibly small, each exquisite in its own way. Many of them showed polo games as they were played during the Safavid Dynasty (17th century) in Imam Square just outside his shop. Horses, men, action, a mosque, a palace, and the market. And painted with the tiniest brushes you can imagine. You'll learn more about the buildings depicted here in upcoming posts on architecture.

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