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Iranian Art

  •   Written by Sady Qavipisheh
  • Category: Art
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Since the beginning of history, Iran possessed a distinct cultural identity despite the several invasions the country encountered over the centuries. Today, the rich art and culture of Iran has a great influence on other nations, both in Central Asia, and throughout the world. The art and culture of Iran has manifested itself in several aspects all through the history of the nation as well as that of many Central Asian states. Persian art or Iranian art has one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many disciplines includingarchitecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry. There is also a very vibrant Iranian modern and contemporary art scene. Persian art and architecture reflects a 5,000-year-old cultural tradition shaped by the diverse cultures that have flourished on the vast Iranian plateau. Throughout its development, Persian artistic achievement has normally been imperial in nature, with impressive majestic monuments or associated with royal patronage in book illustration. Countless painters, weavers, potters, calligraphers, metalworkers, stone masons etc. have produced some of the most beautiful works ever created, and contributed to the Persian artistic heritage that is known throughout the world. The Iranian Cultural Continent constituting the countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and adjacent states, is the abode of the world's richest art heritages. Iranian art has undergone several stages of evolution which is evident from the unique aesthetics of Persia reflected in the Achaemenid reliefs in Persepolis to the mosaic paintings of Bishapur.


The Persian Carpet(Rug) is an essential part of Persian art and culture. Carpet-weaving is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to the Ancient Persia (c.500 BC). Iranian Qali is an artistic design created by artist’s understanding and imagination extracted from his natural environment manifested in a framework of arts and mathematical knowledge, Geometry, Painting, Architecture, Poetry, Literature, Religious beliefs, Nature, Myth and History. read more


Gabbeh is the most prominent handicraft and domestic industry in Bushehr, Kohgiloyeh-Boyer ahmed provinces, also it is in demand in the Chaharmahal Bakhtiari and Fars provinces. Nearly, in the most of the rural and even many urban areas of the mentioned provinces, it is the first or second career of the families. Gabbeh is woven by using natural handspun sheep wool and goat hair. Color differentiation is very important and actually, the first step of Gabbeh weaving. During this step, Gabbeh weavers select from among the self-produced or bought wools considering their colors and wash the selected ones. read more

KHATAM-KARI (Incrustation work)

Delicate and meticulous marquetry, produced since the Safavid period: at this time, khatam was so popular in the court that princes learned this technique at the same level of music or painting. "Khatam" means "incrustation", and "Khatam-kari" incrustation work". This craft consists in the production of incrustation patterns (generally star shaped), with thin sticks of wood. Khatam was used for inlaying the doors of palaces, Quran racks and chairs. The famous case placed in Imam Ali’s shrine is one of the masterpieces of Khatam art done by Shiraz masters and has been left from Safavid more




Oriental historian Basil Gray believes " has offered a particularly unique art to the world which is excellent in its kind". Painting in Iran is thought to have reached a climax during the Tamerlane era when outstanding masters such as Kamaleddin Behzadgave birth to a new style of painting.Paintings of the Qajar period, are a combination of European influences and Safavid miniature schools of painting such as those introduced by Reza Abbasi. Masters such as Kamal-ol-molk, further pushed forward the European influence in Iran. It was during the Qajar era when "Coffee House painting" emerged. Subjects of this style were often religious in nature depicting scenes from Shia epics and the like. 


The significance of the art of calligraphy in works of pottery, metallic vessels, and historic buildings is such that they are deemed lacking without the adorning decorative calligraphy.Illuminations, and especially the Quran and works such as the Shahnameh, Divan Hafez, Golestan, Bostan et al. are recognized as highly invaluable because of their delicate calligraphy alone. Vast quantities of these are scattered and preserved in museums and private collections worldwide, such as the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and Washington's Freer Gallery of Art among many others. Calligraphy is one of the highly regarded and renowned arts of Iran. The art of calligraphy is so important that some arts appear flawed, without the use of attractive calligraphy. The art of calligraphy is used in Iran more commonly than any other nation, to enrich and decorate metallic vessels, earthen-ware, and historic buildings.

KASHI-KARI (Tileworks)

The tilework is a unique feature of the blue mosques of . In the old days, Kashan and Tabriz were the two famous centers of Iranian mosaic and tile industry. The earliest evidence of Tile working on architectural surfaces dates back to 450 A.H; the minaret of Damascus Masjid-i-Jame is a typical Tile working of that time. The surface of the minaret is decorated by geometrical forms using brick making methods. The epigraphic part of it is ornamented by turquoise enameled tiles. Domed Shabestan( part of a mosque designed for sleeping or nocturnal prayers)of Qazvin Masjid-i-Jame mosque(509 A.H) has a ornamented border by small turquoise tiles which is a prominent example of Tile working in the interior decoration of the buildings in Iran. read more



QHALAM-ZANI (Toreutics)

Engraving is a term, relatively rare in English, for artistic metalworking, by hammering gold or silver (or other materials), engraving,Repoussé and chasing to form minute detailed reliefs or small engraved patterns. The use of copper dates back to 9500 B.C, according to the discovered archaeological proofs and evidences and it has been used purely up to the fifth millennium B.C (the discovery of copper melting age) and cold working has been used to shape it. Nowadays, according to the undeniable archaeological proofs discovered in different parts of Iran, it has been certified that the North and Central areas of Iran are among the oldest centers of Metalworking in the world and Iranian metalworkers are one of the pioneers of the discovery of copper melting in the ancient world. read more


Qalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in parts of Iran. The art of Qalamkari first appeared in Persia during the Safavid in the XVI century. In those days artisans of Isfahan invented the new way of applying paint to the fabricwith the help of carved wooden stamps. Calico is one of the oldest crafts of ancient Iran which was in the peak of fame for centuries. Calico and fabric painting became popular in the Mongol era in Iran. Since the Mongol chiefs supported Chinese painted fabric, it had great market shares in Iran. Iranian also had tried to attend into this market by inventing new created painted fabric called Calico. This art flourished in Safavid period and declined in Qajar mid-age. Most of the Safavid clothes for men and women were made of Calico. read more

MINA-KARI (Enamel)

Enamel working and decorating metals with colorful and baked coats is one of the distinguished courses of art in Isfahan . Mina, is defined as some sort of glasslike colored coat which can be stabilized by heat on different metals particularly copper. Although this course is of abundant use industrially for producing metal and hygienic dishes, it has been paid high attention by painters, goldsmiths and metal engravers since long times ago. The art of Minakari or Enameling is referred to as ‘‘Art of Fire and Earth“a well as the decoration of metal and tile with mina glaze and baked and bright colors dating back to 1500 BC. Metallic containers were made from different metals, the most important of which are: gold, silver, copper, bronze, brass, iron, aluminum and chrome. read more



MOARRAGH (Marquetry)

Moarragh or Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer into a context to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. Moarragh or Inlaying on wood is a long-term Iranian craft and art which is much older than the other branches of woodcrafts such as Khatam-Kari (Incrustation work), Monabat-Kari (Fretwork), Wood Turning, Wood finishing, Basketry and straw weaving. According to the existing proofs and evidences, the original land of Moarragh has been India but it was imported to Iran many years ago and Iranian craftsmen and artists completed and developed it. Moarragh which first was a combination of wood and metal was evolved by Iranian Moarragh-makers. Instead of one kind of wood which constituted the original ground of the handmade works, Iranian craftsmen used the different kind of woods and colors. 


Stone carving was started many centuries before Christ to make hunting tools and primary necessities of life in Iran and reached its zenith, gradually. Archaeological findings including the discovered objects in the excavations at Tepe Yahya ( Yahya hills) in Kerman province , Iran certify that the background of this industry dates back to 4500 years B.C. The discovery of these containers indicates that the stone carving has been in demand for making consumer and luxury goods from Green stone in Kerman. It is worth to mention that this kind of stone still is mined and transported to Mashhad. It must generally be said that Stone carving was devoted to make the agricultural tools, hunting equipments and skinning animals. read more


Giveh is a type of traditional Iranian shoe that is very comfortable, cool and rarely affordable. Its upper part is made from twisted cotton threads and the underneath is made from leather and rubber. Giveh is a nice handmade shoe. Giveh was a popular shoe up to Safavid period. According to travelers’ writings from this period, the upper classes wore leather shoes and the public wore Giveh. There had been a famous Giveh market in Isfahan, located near Aligholi Khan Bazaar (market). Shiraz also was a famous center of Giveh selling in the same period and they probably supplied Abadeh products which was one of the most famous southern cities. The most famous Giveh in Iran was a kind called Maleki which the upper part of it is exquisite and expensive and is mostly wore at home. Nowadays, Maleki Giveh is continued to be used too and sometimes is called slipper Giveh. Ajideh is another type of Giveh which has coarse woven upper part and also it seems cooler than the other types. The production centers of Giveh are the two provinces of Yazd and Kermanshah in Iran. 

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