The Glory of Persian Art

By: Homayoun Zarghani

Investigative Journalism

When the Pazyryk, an earliest pile-woven carpet, was excavated in 1949 from the grave of a Scythian nobleman in a Valley of the Altai Mountains in Siberia, radiocarbon testing indicated that this highly qualified carpet was the product of the  Achaemenids era.

Pazyryk is considered to be the oldest carpet, one of the thousands of Iranian artworks widespread in every corner of the world‍`s museums. Persian artworks have been implicated in carpets, pottery, jewelry,  architecture, tile Making, painting, knitting, music, calligraphy and metalworking as well.

Why are Persian artworks so universal? Undoubtedly, these works inspire the aesthetic sense with elegance and simplicity to the audience. High-quality raw materials, of course, are the key factor. Handicrafts and artworks refer to handmade artistic products which use natural elements. In the process of production, the passion and feeling of the artist are evident in the creation of handicrafts, reflect the customs, traditions, culture and art of the local area.

These products blend with art and crafts. If its artistic dimension is dominant, it is said to be “Mostazrafe”, such as miniature, gilding and calligraphy, and if the industrial dimension prevails, then it is said that artificial arts “Sanaei” are like the Enamel (Minakari), Metal Engraving (Ghalam Zani).

Iran is a four-season country, the climate and soil of each region are influential in the quality of raw materials. In the handicrafts of the desert and dry landscapes, the colour of nature is in the colour of the soil. The artist uses the dream mind to create his own work. In fact, the producers have their own dreamy vision on nature, a lush green garden and a variety of festive colours on their artworks. In the northern green areas where colour diversity is abundant in nature, the artist comes up with simple designs to calm down.

Percipience and art creations

Pottery, one of the first and most important inventions made by humans has a long record in Iranian lifestyle. For historians and archaeologists, it is one of the most important signs of art. Archaeologists get acquainted with a course or a region through pottery with the social and economic conditions. By studying pottery, they discuss the life, religion, and history of social relations and attitudes of society towards neighbours.

Miniature paintings are another impressive works of art. The Iranian painter does not portray mere nature. For the artist, the world has other rules. This art was believed by most researchers in Iran, followed by China and returned to Iran from the Mongol period to a more complete extent.

Handicraft Cities

Let`s come back to one of the most beautiful cities in Iran, Isfahan.

Fabulous Naghsh-Jahan square as a landmark in Isfahan is a wave of tourists. For every foreign tourist, there is a market taste. A group has stared at Mosque architects while the others take pictures. Regular Japanese have listened carefully to the tour guide’s words. The market is full of carpets, metalworks and all kind of local food and sweets. The vendors call tourists for their sides with all the living and dead languages of the world: “First, to drink a tea then to finalize a deal.”

In these shops, the shine of the artwork will make you ecstatic. You see the Persian Kātam as most typical of Persian wood-inlay work which has been a speciality of Shiraz and Isfahan. The art of Kātam is one of the most important handicrafts of Iran. Kātam has a tremendous amount of artistic value and has been a history of execution in Iran since ancient times.

This artwork is a combination of regular polygons with different faces, which are formed using different materials in different colours.

In another definition, it is said: the art of Kātam objects in a mosaic-like manner, with a small triangle. Various designs have always been in regular geometric shapes which are stacked together by placing a small triangle. Make triangles of wood, metal and bone.

Another great souvenir you can buy from Isfahan is enamel (Minakari).

Minakari or Enamelling is the art of painting, colouring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colours that are decorated in an intricate design.

Enamel is one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many traditional disciplines including architecture, painting, literature, music, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry.

Let’s go to the south of Iran. Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, where oil companies are located.

Bakhtiari Mountains to Ahwaz by entering the eastern and western parts of the city, making it so memorable.

Tourists in the city of Ahwaz, if they cross the Naderi bridge or coastal roads on weekdays, will be very interesting to see the Mandaean Sabian people who are at the Karon River, to worship and perform rituals. The Sabians in Ahwaz are best known for the jewellery profession, while others are known for the gold Enamelers.

The Mandaean Sabian people can be considered as an artisan and urban citizen who can not be separated from the gold of Ahwaz. The silver and gold industry is the ancestral job of these people. The designs used by Mandaeans for enamel are based on the atmosphere and culture of the region. Boat designs, palms and camels are the most used in the Mandaean artworks.

Thus, in Isfahan, enamel is common on copper dishes, but in Ahwaz, this art is done on silver and goldsmiths, and the artistic work of Isfahani  is high, and the work of artists in southern Iran is financially valuable.

When a person has a tendency to build volumes and sculptures, wood is the source of his work due to the specific structure of colour variation. Wooden artworks are also commonplace in so many parts of Iran. This art is very popular in the West Azarbaijan province. This wooden artwork also has many uses for beauty in everyday life.

Wood from fruit and nut trees (peach, pear, walnut, almond), as well as beech, poplar, and willow, is used for furnishings (cabinets, chests, trunks, doors, cradles) and small decorative or functional objects like combs, spoons, and spindles.

If you travel to Iran, visiting the western regions of Iran is very enjoyable. The hospitable people of Kurdistan Province will host you in pristine nature and beautiful mountains. These kind people still loyal to their traditional clothes. Women wear colourful Kurdish clothing, and the crafts of this area are always on the lookout.

Kurdistan has the most important handicrafts of its kind. Thin art is a combination of very small pieces of natural woods that are elegantly adjacent to each other and create very delicate pieces of wood, such as pencils and other products. In addition to its thinness, pen and envelop holder, erosion, embellishment and mosaic of Sanandaj also has a reputation.

In the Western part of the homeland, the province of Hamedan, you will also be faced with unique crafts. The most important is the Laljin City Pottery, which is known as the World Craft City. Laljin is one of the major centres for producing pottery and ceramics in Iran, and its products are exported to other countries in addition to nearby cities of Iran. Laljin’s pottery is very diverse and includes a variety of decorative and consumable utensils that are produced by the artist Laljini potters.

Hamedanis have long been skilled in leather garments as well. So, Hamedan leather is very high quality and even exported to European states.

The art of people in the city of Nahavand is also velvet carpet, Gabbeh and Rug. Nahavand’s carpet art brings man’s senses and minds into the depths of art and beauty that lies in the carpet, as if mysticism lies in the damp of the carpet, talks to mankind and brings human intellect and intelligence into himself.

Uniqe art in Desert Areas

Tempting colours and smells astound you at the beginning of the Yazd Bazaar. You do not know which side you should go! to buy Termeh, Rug and Zilu or weaving over Yazdi`s sweets shops? On the one hand, the cheerful and delicate colours of hand-woven, on the other hand, the scent of cardamom and saffron, have pretty enchanted you.

In the battle of colour and perfume, you can see the textile workroom, which the weaver behind the traditional textile device and the young people study next to them.

Upon entering the workroom, the generous old man, with a pleasant accent of Yazdi, welcomes your entry and talk unwittingly about his experiences in a short time.

In these stores, all kind of traditional woven products is sold at very reasonable prices, with the enormous amount of effort they have been sewing on.

Then you go to the candy stores and you will be delighted with the variety of food and sweets.

Here in this city, the people of Yazd give the tourists a special respect and they ask to taste all the souvenir, and then buy them if they want to.

The light, delicate white wares of Yazd and Meybod are particularly distinguished by the so-called sun–face (Koršīd Kānom, “lady sun”) design painted in blue or black in the bottom of the pot or bowl and surrounded with fish and bird motifs or sometimes also on the outer walls of the vessel. At Natanz there were at one time thirty potters producing čīnīsāz (stone-paste ware) vases, painted in softer shades of gray, pink, yellow, and blue.

Another outstanding destination for visiting Iran is Kerman Province, located in the southeast of the country. The province has seven thousand historical attractions, 700 of which are on the national heritage list. The Kerman Bazaar has a history of 600 years. It is also enough to know that Kerman has many potentials to be a commercial hub in past, and therefore the handicrafts are unique.

Kerman is widely regarded by art historians and collectors as among the finest in the world for the quality of their materials and workmanship, their distinct range of attractive styles, and the use of vibrant colours supplied by  famed master dyers.

Kerman has desirable wool for weaving carpets. The popularity of Kerman carpet originates from their design and color. One of the most popular types is the Ravar carpet. Pateh embroidery uses colored thread on the special cloth and used for tablecloths or curtains.

 In Kermān both light and heavy fabrics are embroidered with a different kind of chain stitch (pata-dūzī, selsela–dūzī). The third type of embroidery, drawn-thread work (sokma-dūzī), usually on a cotton base, is a speciality of Isfahan. In Tehran and other urban areas, a few women still embroider luxury materials, stitching patterns in gold sequins (pūlak-dūzī), metallic-foil strips (naqda–dūzī), silver thread (malīla-dūzī), seed pearls (morvarīd–dūzī), and small stones (sang-dūzī).

Art in North

The women of the villages and towns along the Caspian coast, particularly around Qāsemābād in Gīlān, weave colourful traditional shawls in plaid designs and bedspreads and curtains in more complex geometric designs, often including birds, animals, and men riding horses or camels. These textiles are woven on narrow handlooms and stitched together.

Gilān in the north we face with some local traditions silk or floss silk cloth (the celebrated čādoršab of Qāsemābād), the embroidery (qollābduzi) of Rasht, the wickerwork (Hasirbāfieen-glazed bowls in which the finest culinary recipes are prepared).

Gilān was a region that produced raw materials (including silk), to which one came for supplies, much more than a region where finished products; and the area long remained rural, with only minor importance accorded to towns housing professionals, workshops, and master craftsmen.

The weaving of silk and floss silk (šarbāfi) textiles were found throughout Gilān in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, this output is especially concentrated in eastern Gilān, at Qāsemābād in particular. These fabrics are woven on looms (pāčāl) with treadles and two rows of heddles.

The other craft speciality of the Gilān plain is embroidery (qollābduzi), that of Rasht being especially esteemed.

Weaving wool and goat hair is a speciality of the mountainous regionsTāleš and GālešGilān.

In the northwest (in northern tāleš) and south of the province jājim and palāz are also made, two multicoloured fabrics that are also woven by women for covering the floors of houses.

The creation of knotted carpets (qāli) is unusual in Gilān. it is because they deteriorate rapidly in the humidity of the houses; traditionally people chose to cover the floors with rush mats; they also valued plates of felt (namad) for their relative impermeability. Making these plates is the work of specialist craftsmen who live in a single village and move around to press felt at their clients’ locations.

To complete this overview of products made from wool, we may mention one other speciality of the mountains of Gilān, the stockings (gurāve or jurāb), single-coloured or multicoloured, knitted by the women with five needles; they are especially heavy (each strand of yarn is made of two threads doubled over).

Turkmen women deal with a variety of golden, silver, and decorative stones. From a cultural point of view, the Turkmens’ jewels caused a variety of hangs during the movement, which is a part of their culture Photo: SAFAR Magazine / Abbass Jafari

It is, in fact, the mats (hasir) that comprise the bulk of the output, traditionally. The women weave them in summer and fall in the courtyard of their house. The loom they use is of very simple construction.

The manufacture of baskets (zanbil) is found in a smaller area than the manufacture of mats and is especially concentrated around the Anzali lagoon and the mouth of the Safidrud. Baskets of any size are made of spiral work, with sewn plaits, provided with a flat base, and their rims and handles are made of very strong cords also plaited from rushes. To these traditional items may be added fans and especially hats, which are also made of plaits of sewn rushes, which are mainly intended for the tourists who flock to the seashore at vacation time.

in Gīlān both men and women work designs on wool flannel in chain stitch by means of a hook (raštī-dūzī); these designs usually include central medallions surrounded by borders and corner pieces heavily ornamented with botas (teardrop or “paisley” shapes) and floral and bird motifs.

In the northeast of Iran, Turkmen ethnic group live in cities such as Gonbad-Kavoos, Bandar Turkmen, Aghghala and Marahtepeh, with special traditions still in the midst of urbanization. Their place of residence is limited to the West to the Caspian Sea and to the North to the Republic of Turkmenistan.

Turkmen women deal with a variety of golden, silver, and decorative stones. From a cultural point of view, the Turkmens’ jewels caused a variety of hangs during the movement, which is a part of their culture. In addition to the ornaments hanging on their hats and heads, they also have special ornaments to decorate their hair. Turkmen men also use their own special jewellery, such as silver and gold rings, silver belts, daggers, and whipping horses. Even children’s toys and dresses are decorated with jewellery.

Carpets and backpacks are one of Turkmen art’s most outstanding masterpieces, where weavers are classics and have moved this art from generation to generation.

The beautiful drawings of these rugs are geometric designs derived from the changes that have taken place in Turkmen life, such as immigration, the exercise of power and victory in war. The genuine Turkmen carpets each represent a particular sign of a clan.

Minakari or Enameling is the art of painting, colouring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colours that are decorated in an intricate design.

Khorasan and reputable carving stones 

Masonry or carvings is one of the old techniques of Iran. The old stone cuttings were made of mountain areas. The masonry and cladding were interconnected and Mashhad is one of the cities where the art of stone-making it has been special.

The most important materials used in Mashhad are stones such as marble, fireclay, black stone, yellow stone, green rock, which is supplied to the Khorasan mines. The consumption of black stones is high due to its cheapness and flexibility, but the green stone of Kerman is less expensive due to the high cost and need for a long time to produce the product.

What is mentioned in this article is only a tiny fraction of the capacities of Iranian culture and art. You can enjoy the beauty of the land, by travelling to Iran and staying among the kind peoples of different regions.

The magnificent cultural and historical capabilities of Iran are somewhat hidden from the inappropriate news released by some of the international media. By visiting this land, touch the historical and cultural glory of the country closely.

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