D. Kashan Lustre:


D.3. The "Miniature" Style:

Whereas the former style is characterised by a large-scale approach to forms, motifs and painting technique, the "Miniature" style is utterly different in approach, though a number of shared elements shows that the two styles are related. Instead of keeping the main design in reserve with decoration in lustre around it, as in the "Monumental" style, the design is painted directly in lustrous pigment on to the glaze. The technique of a large central figure which dominates the design is replaced by a surface divided into a number of friezes and zones, which are filled with small repeating motifs such as running hares. The general aspect of this style is that the vessels are more finely potted and the motifs more finely drawn.

The subject of these vessels can be even more limited than the "Monumental" style, and mostly horsemen and seated figures are depicted. The clothes of the figures are covered in decoration which ranges from stripes and cross-hatching, to arabesques and palmettes, so that the figures sometimes merge with the landscape around them (though not to such an extent as in the fully-fledged "Kashan" style). Another feature of this group is that there is an attempt to represent a setting for the figures, and landscape is depicted through the characteristic chequer-board trees bordered by long single stems with rows of dots. There are other diagnostic motifs for this group, which include the chain-and-stripe motif which is used for dividing up the registers of the design, and hatched lozenges among the arabesques. It is thought that the decoration on this style derives from contemporary manuscript illumination.

The inscriptions used in this style are more serious and legible than those used in the "Monumental" style: stylised, pseudo-inscriptions, and standardised blessings to the owner remain, but now quatrains in Persian are found and are very similar to the type of inscriptions that are found in the "Kashan" style.

In fact the overall impression conveyed by the "Miniature" style in lustre is rather confused, and it seems that it was probably developed primarily for mina’i, as it works well in polychrome. It has very similar types of motifs to the early mina’i bowls, which date to Muharram 1186 and 1187 (as we have mentioned above) and thus give a convenient indicator of dating for the "Miniature" style. Seated figures and horsemen are common subjects on both mina’i and "Miniature", and they are painted in the same way, and motifs like the chequer-board trees surrounded by dotted stems, and the chain and stripe motif are also found on both styles. We also find the same way of depicting a landscape setting which becomes common on the lustre bowls – the sky, represented by some rays of the sun or a decorated awning; the pool with fishes representing the ground level: these features appear on the earliest Muharram bowls, and come into lustre with the "Miniature" style (see the bowl 1956.28).

Several of the pieces in this group are dated and signed, and we start to see a growing pride on the part of the craftsman in his work. The earliest dated piece to be decorated in the "Miniature" style is a fragmentary jar in the British Museum (1920.2.26), which is dated Muharram 1179. This piece also carries a poem bemoaning the afflictions of Fortune, and concluding with a blessing to the owner of the vessel. Two further pieces are dated 1191, one of which is signed by Abu Zaid (who also signed one of the first Muharram bowls). A fourth piece is dated 1194. We can see, then, that this style along with its sibling, mina’i, dominated the repertory of decorative motifs in the 1180s and early 1190s.

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