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The Art and Architecture of Safavid

In the year 902/1502, with the start of reign of lsmaeel Shah, the Shi'ah family took hold of power. A holy Shi'i man called Shaikh Safi Ardabily whose tomb is in Ardebil, established a new dynasty which was called after his name Safavian in 908/1502, and Tabriz became the capital. Also at the beginning of tenth/sixteenth century and under the reign of the newly established Safavids, the center of the art of the book industry moved from Khorasan to Tabriz. Most probably, many of the manuscript copies which were written in Herat and other Khorasan cities, were painted in Tabriz.

After Tabriz, Qazvin and towards the end of the tenth/sixteenth century, Isfahan was introduced as the capital. Shah Abbas the great, had a lavish consideration towards art, and for this, Isfahan turned to be one of the most magnificent cities in Asia. In the eleventh/seventeenth century again all the energy and potential was focused in Isfahan.

Shah Abbas built Isfahan using the characteristics of a modern city. In the midst of the city, a glorious square known as Naghsh-e-Jahan exists. This square has a row of a two storey attached arches which break off at four points; the entrance to the Bazzar, Aliqapu Palace, Shaikh Lotfollah mosque, and Imam Mosque.

There were also many innovations in building palaces. They were built in the middle of huge gardens and they are more like country houses. The main hall had a high roof and around it, rooms were built in two storeys for living. Sometimes there was another hall on the third storey with separated steps. For the interior design, painted glazed pottery was not used; instead decorative tiles which were invented during the reign of Shah Abbas I and started contemporary with the Isfahan painting school were applied. Square shape tiles were used to create a bigger picture, which was usually a battle seen done with various harmonized colors.

Each color was separated with pointing and glazing style, which made it easier to paint the designs. Some parts of these walls have entered the common areas, such as parts of Chehelsotun castle. In twelfth /eighteenth century designs and patterns on tiles had less elements and colors became more delicate. Little square shape tiles, with illustrations and fine glaze became common in 909/ 1600 and were more or less used in covering the walls.

Carving and woodworking was used for decorating doors and roofs and in other situations, wall paintings were used for decorating walls, such as in Aliqapu Palace.

At this stage of history, there was a good relationship started with Europeans.89 in Iraq, which remained as part of Persia till 1048/1638, Shi'ah shrines obtained more attention and Iraq took its magnificence and glory back.

Shrines and tombs were still important parts of buildings and creating newer designs and patterns still existed even in small holy tombs which are called Imamzadeh. Thid types of buildings in the west part of Persia, consisted of a hallway with squre shape buildings and a dome shape roofs.

 However in east, the form of equiangular mansion and flat vaults with garden and a central hall became popular. 90 In the construction of the monuments of Shaikh Safi in Ardebil, the elements of the old mosque are kept untouched whereas in the new construction it has transformed into a shrine with embossed decorations. It was completed in the mid eleventh/ seventeenth century. The yellow mosque of Iravan which is considered as a Jame mosque, can be a good example of a domed mosque with two “eivan”s, related to twelfth/eighteenth century.

In most religious building built in Safavid era, painted glazed tiles were used. This reaches its highest level of excellence in the Shaikh Safi monument in Ardebil. Even in Isfahan's schools, tiles with mind blowing designs, painted flowers and branches with leaves with the effective colors, were used to decorate interiors and exteriors of the buildings, “eivan”s, roofs and “mihrab”s.

Our information on wood industry in Safavid era comes from studying the wooden doors in Persian and west Turkistan mosques that are currently kept in Golestan museum in Tehran or in the Islamic collection in Berlin museum.

Decoration on these doors usually contained forms of flower designs and animals images. One of the best examples of Safavids' wood industry is a pair of door in Tehran made by Ali-lbn-Sufi in 915/1509.

In eleventh/seventeenth and twelfth/ eighteenth centuries wood carving industry declined. Instead of carving, doors made in this era were colored and painted. There is a pair of doors in Metropolitan museum and another one in Victoria and Albert museum in London, which both belong to Chehelsotun Palace in Isfahan in the mid eleventh/seventeenth century.

Decorating brass items which had declined in ninth/fifteenth century, revived again during Safavids era. Brass plated were whitened so that appeared like silver. Iron and steel was also used in making plates. The change of decorations indicate the change of taste and style at that time.

Safavid brass candle holders had decorative designs with embossed ornaments that appeared to look like columns. One of them is kept in Metropolitan museum and goes back to 986/1578. Scripts on these candles are usually Persian poems romance and bravery (Sham- va-Parvaneh).

The decoration of the candle holders included organic forms and vaulted designs which usually cov­ered the whole candle holder and at time applied separately different places on the candle holder.

During the Safavid era metalworkers were highly skilled in using iron and steel. They endure the same technique used in previous eras. Steel items such as belt, board and medals were usually decorated with silver and gold.

The best and the most beautiful metalwork items from Safavids era could be seen in tenth/ sixteenth century miniatures. A few of these items are left. Later on during the eleventh/seventeenth and twelfth/ eighteenth centuries, Persian metalworkes carried on working by using the same Safavids style.

The pottery industry during the Safavids era can be divided into two groups: the first group holds the pure Safavids style of decoration and could be seen in the books, miniatures, carpets and textiles of that time. The other group include potteries that have been imitated from Chinese plates of Ming era. Persian pot makers knew that Safavid's kings admired the Chinese style, therefore, they followed the Chinese style during the tenth/sixteenth century in order to please king's desire. Shah Abbas imported many Chinese pottery and even few Chinese pot makers to Persia. At the end of tenth/sixteenth century Persian pot makers managed to produce potteries which were considered half Chinese, half Persian, although were not as hard as the original Chinese pots but were usually close in appearance. At times, these copies were so fine and artistic that they were often mistaken by Chinese pottery. These half Chinese Safavids pots were made with different styles, material and size. Usually Persian and Chinese methods were mixed with each other, creating a new form of decoration.

During the Safavid era, textile and weaving industry flourished in Persia. Silk was divided into four categories: simple, velvet, and lame. These fabrics were used in making kings and governors clothing and were often given to special and admired people by Safavids kings.

These textiles were decorated with human, birds and animal n, flowers and plants, and the themes were mainly about ceremonial scenes or Shah-Nameh and Nezami stories. The king's hunting scenes or a joyful garden was also decorated on textiles.

The Persian court carpets of the tenth/sixteenth century are among the most magnificent ever produced. In design they follow the fashion evident in late ninth/fifteenth century miniatures for schemes derived from the arts of the book. They are usually classified by a number of types of design, the foremost group being the medallion carpet. Other types of design have complex lattices which may be interspersed with small medallions or with vases.

More pictorial carpets show hunting scenes which includes dragons and other fauna, or gardens laid or like picture maps with criss-cross water channels.

 Refrence(s):

Shayestehfar. Mahnaz. (2007). an Introduction to Persian Islamic Art. Iran. Institute of Islamic Art Studies. P.25

 

 

 

 

 

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