Miniature

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Generically, a miniature is a tiny painting. However, special characteristics have been attributed to it since its origins. Artists have worked in miniature since the Ancient Egyptian Empire. It was also popular in Ancient Greece and Rome where it was often associated with highly valued techniques such as precious metal craftsmanship, ivory carving, or the carving of gems. The miniature's golden age was during the Middle Ages. Miniatures were associated with illuminated manuscripts, where they were used in the delicate scenes and historiated initials of the codices that were copied by hand in monastery scriptorium and cathedral schools. The medieval miniature was aesthetically related to the stained glass window. These miniatures were extremely colourful, with a silhouetted outline which depending on the school could reach levels of virtuosity. This method was called the illumination of manuscripts because the images illuminated texts which were not always accessible to a population where the majority were illiterate. The scenes constituted a way of depicting the fantastic and the monstrous as the margins of the manuscripts were reserved for erotic, everyday, mythological and profane themes that sometimes brushed blasphemy. Parallel to this, the miniature can also be found in Islamic manuscripts of Al Andalus, India, Persia and so on. The miniature evolved throughout history, introducing media like oil and watercolour on precious supports such as copper, ivory and enamel. The arrival of photography in the 19th century marked its decline.


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