Islamic Illumination Course: A Safavid Shamsah (Sunburst) – Short Zoom Course.

Islamic Illumination Course: A Safavid Shamsah (Sunburst) - Zoom Online

When: Sat 02 April 2022 16:00-18:00
Where: Online - Zoom

Islamic Illumination Course:

A Safavid Shamsah (Sunburst)



by Anahita Alavi


Date: Saturdays, 19 March - 7 May 2022

Time: 16:00-18:00 

(UK Time)


Type of Event: Zoom Online Course

Course Fee: £210 for SOAS Students 

£250 for non-SOASians





This practice-based course focuses on a beautiful Shamsah (Sunburst), a folio taken from a 16th-century manuscript of Nizami’s Khamsah. The course aims to instruct how to simply analyse, draw and paint this shamsah in the Safavid style. The participants will practice various steps of making an illumination work; from drawing the design and preparing the paper to a finished work. The course aims to develop several skills at the same time, i.e., 


  1. How to structure a Shamsah in general
  2. Drawing individual motifs of the given folio including Khataei (flowers and leaves) and Islimi motifs
  3. Where to add your creative touch.
  4. Preparing the paper; staining, sizing and burnishing procedures
  5. How to make shell gold
  6. Tracing patterns on our prepared papers
  7. Gilding, mixing and applying colours
  8. Delicate outlining and shading the Khataei motifs
  9. How to draw the braided narrow band
  10. How to draw and paint the needle-like patterns and finish the work


While working on this piece, you will be familiar with the basics of composition especially regarding how to combine the two main motifs of Islamic illumination (Khataei and Islimi). The focus will be on a quarter of the composition, however, through completing 1/4 of this Shamsah, students will acquire the required skill and knowledge to complete and paint the entire pattern by themselves.


The course will be running in 8 consecutive weeks with each session lasting 120 minutes. The classes will be held in a group format; however, students will be able to send their practices to our tutor and receive the instructions and corrections individually. No background in arts is necessary, so beginners are also welcome. 


Please note that the course will be recorded and you will receive the access link within a few hours after the live session. If you wish to rely on the recorded class, you will get the full help and support from our tutor during the course. 



The registration deadline is 15 March 2022. For registration and more information about the course please email us on


Early bird registration (by 28 Feb 2022) will get a 15% discount!



Anahita Alavi has an MA in History of Art and Architecture of Islamic Middle East from SOAS University of London. An Iranian artist, she has learned Persian miniature painting and Islamic illumination under the supervision of a number of great masters in Iran. Her keen interest in the aforementioned areas led her to choose traditional art as her BA major. Aiming to enhance her theoretical-historical knowledge about Iranian culture and arts, Anahita also did an MA in Art Studies at the University of Tehran. She used to teach Persian painting and Islamic illumination at the Payame-Nur University of Tehran and a number of schools and institutes in Iran. In 2016, she started an entrepreneur project called Muqarnas Art sponsored by SOAS.

The project is concerned with teaching and producing Persian miniature and illumination. This aims to preserve the tradition of Miniature painting and Islamic illumination and transmit the respective knowledge and skills to enthusiastic students. To this end, Anahita has been teaching Persian miniature painting and Islamic Illumination courses at the SOAS London Middle East Institute and British Institute for Persian Studies.

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