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The Art and Architecture of Ilkhanids & Timurids

The rule of Saljuqs destabilized the power of caliphs but respected them to some extend of religious point. But after the Mongols attacked Persia in seventh/thirteenth century, they destroyed the whole power of Islamic Caliphs. Mongols stabilized their tribe who ruled by Changiz Khan and took over China, and spread their power right into Asia, until they eventually took over all of Asia and even parts of Europe. Hulaku Khan was the grandchild of the great leader Changiz Khan, he ordered the assassination of the last Islamic Abbasids in 657/1258 and established llkhanid dynasty in Persia. Soon after, west Turkistan also went under Mongol monarchy. Both Mongols and llkhanids, ruled for more than a century. Timur who was in the power in Mesopotamia in 771/1369, established the last Asian power in world history.

Two different and consecutive eras can be identified in this very short periods of time. The first era, related to the llkhanids, Mongolian elements had a strong impact on Persian art. In this period, Mongolian elements became more Persianism and the Timurid style became more respected and well-known. For the eastern Islamic art, the Mongols attack, did not bring anything along, but damages. Hulaku and his ancestors started supporting art and managed to lead their country, Persia, towards a more civilised and cultural situation. With each invasion, many styles arrived in Persia from eastern Asia. The characteristic and traits of the new arts that originate from foreign ideas were always feared that might influence the art of Persia. But new artistic creations and development of cultural and artistic roots resisted the influence to take place.

 On the contrary Persians took Chinese decorative art and their mythical painting and shapes and changed it to their own style and created a reach heritage of local style. The method of constructing of towers in Saljuq building remained untouched. Graves with dome were created in a newer form. Khuda bandeh's Ujiaytu grave in it's governor's residency in Sultaniyeh is an example of these grave sites. Emphasis was more on dome vertical buildings with crescent beaks which had eight pillars in the form of minaret.

Saljuq's style of building mosques were completed in eight/fourteenth century by adding four huge “eivan”s and a massive praying room connected to the balconies. This method can be seen in Jame mosque in Isfahan, and also became popular during the Mongols era. For this reason every old fashioned mosque was converted this style.

Varamin Mosque which was built in 722/1322 had a covered part with the columns which has shaped a cross with the jutted “eivan”s. The main “eivan” has a dome shaped roof. The harmony of structure and architectural elements in Guharshad Mosque in Mashhad in 821/1418 and at the holy shrine of Imam Reza, affects any viewer.

Also during the Timurid era, a new style of mosques with different domes started, which was influenced by the huge tombs. These mosques were mainly for Sunni Muslims. Today, only ruins of the Blue mosque of Tabriz is remained which was built in the midst of the city in mid ninth/fifteenth century. Today it has been rebuilt and its structure and decoration has manifested an artistic vision.

Another examples for this style are: Marand mosque in 610/1310; Gur-e Amir in Samarqand, Blue mosque of Tabriz.

Mongols appreciated Chinese industry and culture, therefore Persian artists applied Chinese realistic painting style in their works. One of the oldest illustrated books from Mongols era is Manaqeb-al­Hayavan written by lbn Bakhtishu which is kept In New York Morgan library.

Ikhanids were not Persian, but they a appreciated and liked the Persian national characteristics and encouraged their majestic artists to illustrate Ferdowsi's Shah-Nameh. This book is partly based on history and partly on legends and for decades it is a source of inspiration for Persian artists and painters. One the oldest versions of Shah-Nameh is known as Demut Shah-Nameh and belongs to the Tabriz school in 720/ 1320. The manuscript had been painted by more than one artist and has 55 complete and large pictures, and is considered among the biggest masterpieces of the world.

In Demut Shah-Nameh both Persian and Chinese elements are used. Landscapes are painted with pale colors and buildings are painted with darker colors in the Persian style.

Chinese and Mongolian styles are more obvious in some miniatures, such as the scene of buying Isfandiar which is kept in Metropolitan Museum. This image that shows the various movements of the mourners, is so realistic and masterly drawn that no other drawing can be compared with it even among the works of recent painters. These are the best example of Persians paintings in those days after Timurids succeeded Ilkhanid Mongols, his first conquered Tabriz in 788/1386 and then Iraq in 804/1401. Few copies which were written in other cities like Shiraz are still available. Three copies of available Shah-Nameh belong to the Shiraz style. Many believe that Timurid painting style must have started in the Shiraz school. Persian national paintings with less influences from other countries owes its survival to Herat painting style, in this style, drawing are illustrated small and detailed, and landscapes are painted with high skies and sponge looking mountains. The coloring of these painting are light and harmonized, and compared to primary Mongolian paintings, new colors are added.

During the Mongol's era, plasterwork became more complicated, decorative and appeared in different shapes. Buildings in Azarbayjan province indicates this point. Another example for Mongolian plaster work is Heidari mosque in Qazvin. Similar complicated elevated designs are used frequently. Another building which is probably built are the same time as Heydari mosque is Gonbad-e-Alavian.

Here Mongolian plastering style could be found at its highest level of perfection. Another example of plaster moulding in eighth/fourteenth century is the mihrab of Jame mosque of Isfahan, which was built by one of the Sultan Uljaytu's ministers in 710/ 1310.

There are three elevated stone work design from eighth/fourteenth century from Mongol era kept in Metropolitan museum. Two of them which are in Hamadan have different kinds of elevated, designs and it seems that these two were the sides of a fence.

Wood carving or designing. On the wood was rarely done at the beginning of the Mongol's era from mid seventh to eighth/thirteenth to fourteenth centuries. There is podium in Naiin's mosque which goes back to 711/1311.

In mid eighth/fourteenth century woodworking in Persia reached its excellence, especially in west Turkistan. Also metalworks belonging to mid eighth/fourteenth century, include a bowl decorated with gold and silver, made in different qualities. The metalworks were likely decorated with pictures of people, royal life style, royal garden parties and polo games.

The invasion of Mongol tribes and the establishment of their kingdom did not change the style of pottery and ceramic in Persia. The Persian style was common till mid seventh-eighth/thirteen-fourteenth centuries. Painting under neath the glaze with black or blue color, elevated decoration and paint directly on the glaze are method used in the Mongolian era.

 Kashan, Sultan Abad, Sultaniah, Neishabur, Samarqand, Saveh and Mashhad are the main pottery making centers of the Mongol era. The natural designs in drawing animals, birds and landscapes, which were used Chinese industry, gradually influenced on every Islamic products such as pottery.

At the beginning of eighth/fourteenth century Mongol pottery making developed and the impact elements progressed not only in copying the painting of plants, blossoms but also the elements of decoration become closer to nature. It is clearly obvious that this form decoration, formed in a beautiful and delicate way, consisted of botanic and mosaic designs and was applied on ewers, vases, and tiles. These patterns were decorated with flying bird Figures, such as phoenix or animal such as hares or gazelles, or human illustrations in Mongolian dress with black, blue, turquoise colors. The background of these painting are blue or white with spiral shapes in black.

Glazed vessels first appeared in the Mongol era and were created in from of Rey and Kashan school, this occurred in the first mid of thirteenth century. Furthermore, these glazed vessels were often used for decorating buildings and mihrabs. This method was also used for decorating edges and peripherals.

 In late seventh/thirteenth century using natural elements in glazed pottery designs began. Patterns such as spiral shapes, palm leaves and plant designs were applied, and artists themselves started adding other leaf shapes to these forms. Painting on the glazed pottery carried on during the Mongol era but the color shades were limited to white and gold on blue or turquoise glaze. Enameling works with human Figures were less popular during the mid-seventh/thirteenth century and instead glazed pottery was applied in a great extend.

In this period, another type of tile work started in Persia known as mosaic tiles. In this style, small tiles in different shapes and patterns are arranged closely to each other, creating a design similar to a mosaic. Following the design draft, these small pieces were attached to each other with a liquid plaster purring behind them. This liquid plaster fills all the holes and cracks between the little pieces, therefore, the designs looks as if it is one piece.

The style and technique of mosaic tiles had a strong relation with glazed brick decorations, which was mainly used in older times in districts such as Persia and Iraq. Due to the high command for more colorful and different designs, this style gradually improved and completed. Some of the primarily designs done in this way could be seen in Uljaytu tomb in Sultaniyeh, also in buildings in Natanz, Yazd and Varamin. In these buildings a massive part of the interior and exterior is covered by tiles.

From the few potteries remained from the Timurids era, we can see that the quality and value of the potteries had declined throughout the time. By studying the paintings related to the ninth/fifteenth century, which contain images of potteries and tile works of the art and architecture of that era; it is concluded that the influence of Chinese elements were highly considerable, in the way that probably some of potteries and tiles were directly imitated from China, and others were pure Persian style of which examples are rarely found, unfortunately.

In the ninth/fifteenth century, Persian pottery makers, not only carried on tilling with mosaic, but also started covering larger surfaces. The exterior and interior of the walls in the mosques and tombs were mostly decorated with these tiles and some of these are preserved and kept until today. The tiles were mainly decorated with plant designs, vaulted forms with leaves and poppy flowers and citron (toranj) designs.85 These designs were mainly done in white, yellow, green and turquoise on the blue background s. One of the famous building related to the ninth/fiftee nth century, which enjoys magnifycant mosaics, is the Blue mosque of Tabriz that was constructed during the reign of Turkmen tribes of Qaraquyunlu and Aqquyunlu in the years of 1437- 1467.

The mosaic tilling industry was common in all parts of Persia and was not applied in a certain area.

This style was customary in Isfahan, where many buildings from ninth/fifteenth century exist such as: Darb-e Imam’s shrine in which is an outstanding example of the application of mosic tilework in Persia, Darb-e-lmam was built during the reign of Jahanshah in 857/ 1434.

In the field of Timurid carpets and rugs related to the ninth/fifteenth- century, Rugs and woven items can be observed. Bearing in mind that many artwork s of this era have been destroyed throughout time, one exquisite and magnificent work of woven art is kept at Berlin museum, in Germany, which is worthy for attention and value.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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