Nastaliq script

Reyhan script

Farsi Nastaliq



Nastaliq, a combination of Naskh and Taliq. Nastaliq is closely connected to Persian poetry and has played an important role in communicating poetic concepts to readers.

Under the Timurid and the Safavid rulers, calligraphy experienced its highest stage of development. By the 16th century, Shiraz was among the forerunners of calligraphic study and production in the Islamic world. In the 17th century, it was followed by Esfahan and then by Qazvin. The most famous calligraphers of the Safavid court were Mir Emad and Alireza Abbasi.


While architecture and painting were the main artistic vehicles of the Safavids, the making of textiles and carpets was also of great importance. In the 16th century, hitherto primarily nomadic crafts were transformed into royal industries by the creation of court workshops. The best known carpets of this period, dated 1539, come from the Mausoleum of Sheikh Safi od-Din Safavid in Ardabil and, in the opinion of many experts, represent the summit of achievements in carpet design. The larger of the two is now kept in London's Victoria and Albert Museum, while the other can be seen at the Los Angeles County Museum. Shah Tahmasb admired carpets so much that he learnt weaving techniques and designed several very refined models himself. Under Shah Abbas, the artists developed the use of gold and silver threads in carpets, culminating in the great coronation carpet now held in the Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen.

Iranian Carpets

Iranians were among the first carpet weavers of the ancient world. The earliest known Persian carpet, called "Pazyrik", was discovered by a Russian Professor Rudenko in the frozen tombs of Scythian chiefs in Siberia, and is estimated to date from at least 500 BC. It is now kept in the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersberg in

Russia. Today, carpet weaving is by far the most widespread handicraft in Iran. Iran alnoe produces as many carpets than all the other carpet-making centers of the world

A 19th-century carpet with put together, zodiac design woven in Esfahan jran|an car_

pets have deservedly received international renown for their quality and artistic splendor.

Iranian carpets are usually made of wool. In the Hamadan and Kurdestan regions, camel hair is also used. Silk is frequently employed to make very finely knotted carpets. Traditional Iranian carpets are hand-knotted. Each carpet consists of strings of weft, and thousands of knots constitute the carpet's warp. There are two main kinds of knots: the Turkish knot and the Persian knot. The Turkish knot is done by crochet. It is more solid and leaves two wool or silk threads on

Turkish CrochetHalinspiration

Turkish Persian

(symmetrical) knot (assymmetrical) knot show, between two threads of chain. The Persian knot is done by hand. It is used for very fine carpets and leaves only one woolen thread on show. The closer the knots, the finer the design which can be displayed. Professionals usually make finely knotted Persian carpets, while nomads make coarsely knotted ones. The most coarsely knotted carpets come from Kurdestan and the finest from Kashan. In addition to usual carpets, nomads weave gabeh (a rug with very long pile) and gelim or kilim (a pileless rug). The motifs of Iranian carpets are numerous; the most common are medallions, arabesques, flowers linked by tendrils, animals and people, and also geometric patterns.

Rug Kashan IranPersian Gelim

Gelim (kilim) with medallion pattern

Gabeh woven by the Qashqai tribe


Moldova Kilim

The so-called "Polonaise" carpets, woven in the 16th-17th centuries on orders of the Polish rich, were distinguished by the silver and golden threads employed during the weaving.

As one would expect, the carpets made for Abbas the Great were large in scale and grandiose in design. The "vase" pattern, also called Shah Abbasi, contains great palmettes, huge leaves, flower-strewn meadows, m and sometimes animals. The so-called "Polonaise" carpets, most of which have found their way to Europe, are enriched with threads of silk, gold-covered silver, and silver. The predominantly geometric themes of earlier Iranian carpets were not abandoned entirely but tended to be replaced by plant, animal, and occasional human themes; medallions and Shah Abbasi flowers are the most usual motifs. The Safavid carpets are also characterized by arabesque tendrils, and margins in colors which contrast with those of the center. Modern Esfahan carpets are characterized by a pale beige or light blue palette. However, sometimes as many as fifteen colors are used for contrast and outlines, including several different shades of red. Both warp and weft are made of wool and cotton, though silk wefts are also found. Sometimes gold or silver threads are used for small highlights, recalling the early "Polonaise" rugs. Carpets vary in size, though large carpets are quite rare. Modern Esfahan carpets bear mostly the Shah Abbasi designs; patterns are very intricately drawn and precisely executed. Among other carpets woven in Esfahan are Armanibafs made by Christian Armenians with the Turkish knot, and Esfahan Mirs, nomads' car pets from the vicinity of Esfahan, also finely woven with the Turkish knot.

Pottery Safavid ceramics can hardly stand comparison with the splendid

Kashan Safavid Ceramic

The canvas cloth with a vase design is a sample of the fabrics produced in Esfahan during the Safavid period.

wares of earlier periods, yet under the Safavids there was a notable renaissance in pottery. The artists of the Safavid age brought about the beautiful tilework that can be observed in the mosques of this period. Shah Abbas the Great is said to have summoned to his capital 300 Chinese potters, and the most characteristic ceramics of his reign show the strong influence, and often the direct imitation, of Far Eastern samples. Beautiful chinaware with Chinese techniques and Persian ornamentation is a remarkable manifestation of the magnificent age of pottery that started with the emergence of the Safavid dynasty. New forms were devised, among them large saucer-shaped rice dishes, little octagonal trays, and long-necked perfume sprinklers. Unfortunately, Iranian potters never achieved true porcelain, and the porcelainlike ware they created did not carry with it the strength of its model. Fired at a lower temperature, Iranian glazes were softer and more fragile than on Chinese pottery and developed extensive crackles more easily.

Metalwork Elegance of design along with Persian inscriptions with the names of twelve Shiite Imams are the most distinctive features of Safavid metalwork. Delicate candelabrums of different shapes and engraved censers are the main objects of this period. Jewelry-inlaid dishes of copper, which was whitened to resemble silver, flourished in this era to a great extent. Bronze astrolabes were the other metal objects that were produced abundantly Fine traditions, started in during the Safavid rule. That

Pottery in the imitation of Chinese porcelain was some of the Safavid's main legacy in ceramic art. Most of it had been preserved in the Mausoleum of Sheikh Safi od-Din in Ardabil until looted in the 19th-20th centuries and scattered throughout the world.

Handicrafts Iran Metal Work

metalwork by Safavid masters, • , , • , • -r were effectively developed in ™ nOt astonishing if one later periods, as seen in this recalls that the Safavid kings

19th-century inlaid ewer made in notorious for their belief

Esfahan (today in the National Weie nOt0110US TOr tneil Deiier

Museum in Tehran). in astronomical warnings.



Plan of a traditional Iranian garden

Safavid metalworkers also greatly improved the art of steel articulation. Steel doors and windows for sacred places were produced in abundance and exported during this period. The notable symbol of Safavid metalwork is a lion attacking or tearing apart a deer, a motif reminiscent of Achaemenid sculpture.


Most historical gardens in Iran have a mythological background. In fact, the English word "paradise" derives from Old Persian pardis ("a royal garden"). The traditional Iranian garden is usually divided into four quarters by the intersection of two principal avenues. Noteworthy examples of this type are Hasht Behesht (pp88-89), Chehel Sotun (pp84-87) in Esfahan, planted during the Safavid period, and Fin Garden (ppl78-179) in Kashan. The finest of the Safavid gardens was Hezar-Jarib, situated at the end of Chahar Bagh Avenue on the south bank of the Zayandeh-Rud; nothing of it, however, remains. There are few true Iranian gardens in Esfahan today, but almost every house has its own miniature enclosure that usually includes some shade and a small pool around which people gather when the weather permits. To Europeans, a Persian garden may at first seem disappointing. To best appreciate it, it is perhaps necessary to contrast it with the howling desert that is usually located outside the garden's walls.


Iranian music is characterized by a subtle organization of melody and rhythm, with a vocal component often predominating over an instrumental. Performances are generally improvised, similar to the use of melodies in jazz improvisation in the West. Such a performance has the potential of producing hal (inspiration) that can transport both the listener and performer outside the realm of ordinary consciousness.

According to the classification of Iranian musical modes, which was finally set about a century ago, Iranian traditional music has been divided into twelve groups. The seven groups which are wider and more independent are called dastgah (mode), and the other five groups which are not independent and have been derived from the dastgahs are called avaz (a group of melodies with the same gamut). Classical Iranian music has undergone development and modification in the hands of gifted musicians throughout several centuries. Rhythmic and melodic modes have grown in number and complexity, and new vocal and

Chehel Sotun FrescosSafavid Miniatures

Musicians inevitably accompanied Safavid feasts, as seen on the fresco from Chehel Sotun.

The splendid music chamber in Ali Qapu is the evidence of the importance of music in the Safavid court.

instrumental genres have arisen. Iranian classical instruments are generally brighter and crisper in tone than many of those used in neighboring cultures. However, a Western listener must set aside all his European ideas of the art, because to an ear trained to the octave the "tuneless" sounds may ^ remind one of an orchestra tuning up before the overture commences. Classical poetry is an integral part of the performance of traditional music, particularly the ghazals of Hafez and Saadi, as well as the Mathnavi of


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