Originally defined as a small painting in an illuminated scroll or book, miniature paintings were popular in the scholarly centers of Europe, Persia, and Asia in the 13th and 14th centuries, where their small scale and great detail made jewel-like additions to the written pages. The main function of the miniature was to visually explain or extend the written text, helping make it more understandable; over time, the practice of miniature painting became a method of storytelling in itself, with rich details woven into the small spaces.
Influenced by Persian artists, South Asia was no exception to this large-scale love of tiny pictures, and during the rule of the Mughal emperors (1526-1857) miniature paintings became popular. In the 1500s, war scenes, courtly life, and palace ceremonies were the usual subjects for a miniature. Later, miniatures were painted of animals and flowers.
In contemporary Pakistan, the creation of miniatures has received positive state and social support, given its long tradition as an Islamic art form, and in recent years it has become one of the region’s most significant art forms again. Since the mid-1990s, many artists, many of them women, have explored this form with fresh eyes—and incorporating modern themes, like women’s rights, drug addiction and war.