Concept

Miniature (illuminated manuscript)

Summary
A miniature (from the Latin verb miniare, "to colour with minium", a red lead) is 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, Byzantine and Armenian 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 media are not. These include Arabic miniatures, and their Persian, Mughal, Ottoman and other Indian offshoots. The earliest extant miniatures are a series of uncolored pen drawings in the Chronograph of 354, which was lost after the Renaissance, but is known from copies. Fragments of some heavily illustrated luxury manuscripts from before about 450 have survived to the modern day. The Cotton Genesis was mostly destroyed by fire in London in 1731 and the Quedlinburg Itala fragment mostly destroyed in the Middle Ages, the vellum used in bookbindings. There are also colored miniatures cut from the Ambrosian Iliad, an illustrated manuscript of the Iliad from the 5th century. In these pictures there is a considerable variety in the quality of the drawing, but there are many notable instances of fine figure-drawing, quite classical in sentiment, showing that the earlier art still exercised its influence. Such indications, too, of landscape as are to be found are of the classical type, not conventional in the sense of medieval conventionalism, but still attempting to follow nature, even if in an imperfect fashion; just as in the Pompeian and other frescoes of the Roman age.
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