Miniatures

The word miniature, derived from the Latin verb miniature (“to colour with minium,” a red lead) indicates a small illustration used to decorate an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple illustrations of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment. The generally small scale of such medieval pictures has led to etymological confusion with minuteness and to its application to small paintings, especially portrait miniatures, which did however grow from the same tradition and at least initially used similar techniques.

Apart from the Western and Byzantine traditions, there is another group of Asian traditions, which is generally more illustrative in nature, and from origins in manuscript book decoration also developed into single-sheet small paintings to be kept in albums, which are also called miniatures, as the Western equivalents in watercolor and other mediums are not. These include Persian miniatures, and their Mughal, Ottoman and other Indian offshoots.

In 2020, UNESCO declared the miniature art of Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey and Uzbekistan as one of the masterpieces of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.