Iran Arts Part II

By | September 3, 2021

After the Arabs had taken over the Sassanid empire over a period of twenty years, as a country located in Middle East according to top-mba-universities, Iran (which then also included Soviet Turkestan and Afghan Khorāsān) became part of the Islamic cultural area and represented one of the sectors more lively and creative than the Muslim civilization as a whole, especially starting from the Seljuk era. But already with the Samanids (874-999) those characteristics of independence from the common Islamic matrix began to develop which led to the period in question being defined as that of the “Iranian renaissance”.  Abandoned Fars, cradle of the Sassanids, Iran’s cultural center was first in Isfahan, with Buwaihidi (sec. X-XI) and the Seljuks (11th-13th centuries), then towards the north, to Tabrīz and Sultaniya, after the Mongol invasion, to Herāt in the Timurid period, again to Eṣfahān with the Safavids, to Shīrāz, in the heart of the Fārs, during the brief interlude of the sovereigns Zand, and finally in the current capital Tehran. Samarkand, Buhara and Marv are, with Herat, the only centers of Iran’s Islamic past currently outside the country’s borders. The greatest merit of Iranism was that of having been able to amalgamate in a single world the various complementary civilizations (the Hellenistic-Roman-Byzantine one and the Hellenistic-Roman-Asian one) from which primitive Islam had started and which seem characterize Iranian Islam in autonomous forms. In reality, the especially “classical” architectural forms of Iran were to become the prerogative of the entire Muslim world from India to Central Asia and Turkish Anatolia to Mamluk Egypt. This refers to the mosque of the madrāsa type with four ī vān facing a rectangular courtyard, or to the square mausoleums covered by a dome or to the tomb-towers which then spread to vast areas of Islam.

The most significant monument of the Samanids is the beautiful Ismāʽīl mausoleum in Buhara, substantially derived from the tetrapyle of the Sassanid fire temple and covered by a dome on corner niches. Particularly interesting is the brick structure, also used for the decoration, in the face, supplemented by motifs in sculpted terracotta, a technique that would have met with great success also among the Buwaihids, the Gasnavids and the Seljuks. Under these last sultans, Iran reached the pinnacle of excellence in every field; the great mosques of Ardestān, Gulpaygan, Natanz, Qom, Qazvin, Sava mark the various stages of the evolution of that typology in ī vān followed by a domed hall that will find its most complete expression in the Great Mosque of Eṣfahān, with the splendid rooms created by the two great viziers of the epoch, Niẓam al-Mulk and Taj al-Mulk. In addition to the splendid domes, in the Seljuk era, very slender minarets were also built, attached to the mosques, on a square, octagonal or star base, whose tall cylindrical shaft was decorated with a geometric wall of exposed bricks; monumental mausoleums of the most diverse types (square, cylindrical, polygonal) and caravanserai with a grandiose layout, to meet the numerous needs of the caravan trade.

The monumental architecture went even further with the Ilkhānids, whose masterpiece is considered the Öljeitü mausoleum, built in the new capital Sultaniya, at the beginning of the century. XIV. With the Safavids, Iranian art reached its apogee, especially for the grandiose urban planning programs of Shāh ʽAbbās the Great (1557-1629) in his new capital Esfahān, and the dense network of commercial plants throughout the country, reunited after centuries of dismemberments and elevated to the rank of nation. Palaces scattered within parks and gardens were added to mosques and madrasas, caravanserai and mausoleums, contributing to the rich artistic heritage. In this period, alongside the extremely refined and elegant miniature, mural painting also spread, due to the influence of the West, in particular of the Dutch and Italian schools. Western influences (in this case, however, Russian) were to be felt later in the Cagiari period when the architectural and urban solutions of Tehran and Kāshān they seem to be somewhat hybridly inspired by models from the Tsarist era. Iran also had very important centers for the production of bronzes and worked metals (in particular the Khorāsān), for the production of luster ceramics (Kāshān) which continued previous pre-Islamic traditions (Rayy, Nishāpūr), for the manufacture of carpets from inimitable colors and designs (Ardabil, Tabriz, Kāshān, Esfahān). In the last decades of the twentieth century Iranian art has tried to reconcile its traditions with the international currents of modern art and this is often evident in the creations of contemporary artists who use typically Persian motifs with a new language. Some of the most representative artists of modern and contemporary art in Iran are Sohrāb Sepehrī, Masoud Arabshahi (b.1935), Hossein Zendeh Roodi, Manouchehr Sheibani, whose works are housed in many international galleries and form part of the Museum’s collection. of contemporary art of Tehran, opened in 1977 and designed by the architect Kamran Diba (b.1937).

Iran Arts 2