Turkish miniature art added to UNESCO list

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Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy announced on Wednesday that UNESCO has added miniature art, a classic Turkish decorative craft, to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“Our multinational “Miniature Art” nomination file, submitted with Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran and Uzbekistan, was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage during the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will be held online from December 14 to 19,” the minister said in a statement.

A miniature of the Maiden’s Tower by Turkish miniaturist Nusret Çolpan. (Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Turkey now has 19 of its cultural items listed with the addition of miniatures.

“We will resolutely continue to preserve, cherish and promote Turkey’s rich cultural values ​​inherited from our deep-rooted history,” Ersoy said.

Miniature is a type of two-dimensional artwork that features small, finely crafted paintings that tell stories or convey information.

In Ottoman times, those who practiced the craft were known as miniaturists. Historically, miniature styles varied by region and their school of art, further evolving with the introduction of Islam. Manuscripts of the time were visually illustrated with miniatures.

Ottoman miniature used a visual language to express its cultural diversity, cosmopolitan geography and expressive principles that developed over centuries.

As the 19th century approached, the craft developed and began to appear more frequently on walls, canvas, wooden pieces, ceramics and leather.

Miniaturists mostly painted with feathers and organic paints on special paper coated with egg white, as opposed to the industrial materials used today. The miniaturist took a cotton sheet of raw paper, spread it on a marble surface and straightened it with an ivory press, giving it a luminous appearance. Next, the artist would determine what he was going to paint and create a rough draft on the paper, which he would then cover with Indian ink. The outlines were then filled in with madder stain, which is known to retain its vibrant color.

With its history spanning hundreds of years, miniature art is widely accepted as an important part of Turkish history and culture.

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