Art of Iran Art

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The Art of Achaemenids
The Art of Achaemenids

A description and illustration of the marvelous varieties and exquisite harmonies of Iran’s artistic life- long work of the great American scholar Arthur Upham pope. It certainly induces a spirit of humility in anyone tackling the subject , however, here, in this travel guide, we propose to do no more than give some pointers to the main features of Persian achievement, which may be useful to the traveler or foreign resident before he plunges into whatever branch of the subject takes his fancy most.

Archaeological discoveries at Marlik and Cheragh- Ali during the early years of the second half of the twentieth century have furnished new knowledge in support of the  fact that the genius of Iranian art evolved as far back as 8,000 years ago.
Little has been found in the way of architecture, although when one wanders about the country (in the field of art) it is primarily building that catch the eye; and it appears that the people of these ancient times were nomadic and warriors, traveling on horseback. Most of the discoveries made are of object small enough to be carried. And there is great emphasis on weapons and horse- trappings. In bronze, these depict animal forms of great vitality. Painted earthenware vessels and long spouted pots have been recovered, which are of great aesthetic beauty in their simple, graceful lines. Since very ancient times, wide use was made of all available materials: stone, clay, wood, metals, glass, terra cotta, and bone.
In Islamic Iran, as in all Islamic societies, art favor the non- representational, the derivative and the stylized rather than the figurative, the innovative, and the true to life. Accurate representation of the human form has never been a part of traditional Islamic art. However, Shiite Islam does not forbid portraiture. Many Iranian art forms predate the Arab Conquest, but since nearly all of them reached their peak within the Islamic era, religious influences are there to indicate the present of Islam. Favorite motifs in Iranian art age geometrical shapes and patterns such as lozenges, medallions and meanders; grapevines and other floral patterns, often very complex; and highly stylized real or imaginary creatures such as lions, elephants, peacocks, phoenixes and griffins.
Fine Arts and Painting

The Art of Achaemenids
The Art of Achaemenids-Ryton

Calligraphy, now a highly flourished fine art, became important soon after the Arab conquest. Actually, during their long history, Iranians have mainly used three alphabets: the cuneiform, which characterized the Achaemenian  period; the Pahlavi in the days of the Sassanians; and the Arabic under Islam. The aesthetic value of writing has always been considered in Iran; but it was during the Islamic period that, little by little, calligraphy became a major art, as deeply appreciated, under the Timurids and the Safavids (15th-16th centuries) as architecture and miniature to which it is closely linked. The links among these three forms of artistic expression were of a mathematical, geometrical and symbolic nature. Their intellectual aspect was complex and difficult to grasp except for the initiates.
 It remained in use, especially for monumental epigraphic friezes, until the 12th-13th centuries. The famous Nasta’liq writing appeared during the second half of the 15th century. With it, calligraphy reached perfection during the 15th, 16th and 18th centuries. Its greatest master was Mir Emad Hassani Seifi Qazvini who died in 1617. His writing was in such great demand that one word alone fetched gold!
The formal, upright Kuffic style of calligraphy was imported from the Arabian Peninsula. But several distinctly Persian calligraphic style also emerged, some of them so elaborate as to verge on the illegible. the latest calligraphic style developed under the Qajars was called shekasteh Nasta’liq. Which is particularly appreciated and considered fashionable even today. Its main quality resides in its beauty and speed of execution.

Calligraphy has been considered among the artistic symbols,

Persian painting (known to the West as the miniature) is deservedly famous throughout the world. Until recently the kind of  painting which for centuries was current in Europe was unknown in Iran. Portraits or Europe was unknown in Iran. Portraits or figuration of sacred personalities or events, although not forbidden, were frowned upon under Islamic religious laws. Perspective relief, light and shade were long unknown relief, light and shade were long unknown to Iranian painters. Calligraphy, floral motifs, and geometrical composition were the sources off all decoration, and  polychromia was restricted to ceramics. Painting was entirely devoted to the illustration of text, the Koran, scientific works, epic poems, legends, and panegyrics lauding the achievements of kings or heroes. This was how the so- called art of miniature originated and developed.
It is believe that the ancient source of This art from is to be found in the predilection for painting demonstrated by Mani (216-227 AD), the Iranian prophet and religious leader. Later, the illuminations in Byzantine manuscripts also influenced Iranian artists whose drawings rid themselves of the hieratism and stiffness of Christian models. Iranian miniature painting is full of subtle delicacy. It is said that artists sometimes use a paintbrush with one single hair.


As early as 11th  century AD, Iranians were the undisputed masters of miniature painting and have remained so ever since late 15th and early 16th centuries witnessed culmination of Iran’s miniature painting. In Herat (now part of Afghanistan). 40 calligraphers were permanently at work. In Tabriz a genius painter named Behzad, while directing hundreds of artists, succeeded in renewing the art by combing the traditional concept of decoration with a taste for realism and the picturesque.
The compositions of this period underline daringly expressive attitudes, the wealth and the subtle harmony of colors. On large pages, scenes including a multitude of pages, scenes including a multitude of figure are arranged from bottom to top distance are expressed; they are all equally lighted, leaving the scenery all its delicacy and the colors all their splendor.
Another evolution took place under the influence of the painter Reza Abbasi, when a certain degree of stark realism appeared in Iranian miniatures. He was the first artist who drew his inspiration directly from the street and bazar scenes of Esfahan. This was also the time when palace walls were covered with frescoes with warlike or frivolous themes that were frequently reproduced subsequently. Good examples of the above works are well preserved in Ali Qapu or Chehel Sutun palaces Esfahan.
During the 19th century, miniature painting fell slightly in disuse when Iranian painting was opened up to Western influence. Mirza Baba, the official court painter, painted remarkably expressive portraits of princes He also painted chest lids,

Alighapoo palace - Special  Balcony
Alighapoo palace

Writing desks and the backs of mirrors in which one feels the influence of centuries of the miniaturists tradition. This was also the period durind which appeared in Iran naive mural paintings called coffeehouse painting. Large frescoes or a succession of scene whose style has been compared that of comic strips served as a background for storytellers. They depicted legendary heroes of Iran, Rostam’s battles, the adventures of Yusuf and the Ladies of Egypt, the hunting scenes of Bahram-e Gur with an approach similar to that of medieval love courts.
 During the 20th century, Iranian painting continued to develop in the works of Mohammad-e Ghaffari known as kamal ol-molk (1885-1940), who was exiled by Reza shah,and Akbar Tajvidi (born 1926-95). Presently, the tradition is being developed and continued in the hands of the well- known living Iranian painter Mahmud Farshchian, Abbas Rostamian, Hossein Mahjubi, Parviz Kalantari, Taraghi Jah, Nami, Jazeh Tabatabai, Farah Osuli, Gizalle varga Sinai, Morteza Katuzian, Ali akbaar sadeghi, and Atashzad. Favorite Theme include courting couples in traditional dress, polo matches and hunting scenes.

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