THE IRANIAN ART FROM THE ADVENT OF ISLAM
TO THE VICTORY OF THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION
ART IN THE MONGOLIAN PERIOD
The first Mongols or Ilkhanidi
The ruinous aggression of the Mongols began in 1220 The advent of Chengiz Khan is one of the most frightening and tragic events in history. In the course of their invasions, the Mongols had no mercy for anyone, neither women, nor children, not even for the animals, and killed anyone who came to find their way. So many cities were razed to the ground and completely destroyed, the massacred populations. The mosques became stalls for their horses, the burned libraries and the books became feed for the quadrupeds. They burned every conquered town and village, destroying them entirely! The catastrophe was such that Iran was never able to recover completely from its harmful consequences, failing to rebuild everything that had been destroyed. Great works of art were razed to the ground, the economy and agriculture were ruined radically, so that some successive generations lived in desolation and total misery. But the Iranian educational and educational spirit succeeded, in the space of a century, in pacifying and overseeing the Mongols, and through their conversion to Buddhism and Islam, in particular to Shiism, to rebuilding the country through themselves, giving life to a completely new breakthrough. The commanders and the Mongol khans were not only murderers and destroyers, their victories were not due only to the large number of soldiers present in their army, but also to the considerable military ability, to the effective system of espionage, to the force and to physical resistance, sometimes considered legendary, and above all to the courage and boldness of the commanders. When these characteristics were subjected to the control and education of the Iranian sages and then joined their ancient traditions, their intuitions and their aesthetic sense, began a century, the fourteenth, characterized by grandiose architecture and a splendid activity Decorative. The Mongols gradually assimilated the characteristics and habits of Iran, deciding to resume the activity of building monuments. Hulegu, the nephew of Chengiz Khan (1218-1266), despite the destruction, thought about the design of buildings and the creation of an architecture suitable for that time.
From that moment on, the reconstruction and construction of new buildings began all over Iran. The main bases, foundations and plants of the buildings were the same used in the Seljuk architecture. But since the princes and the sovereigns, to preserve their superiority and affirm their pride, wanted more grandiose monuments than before, they increased the dimensions and the measures of the palaces and towers. The grandeur of the facades was increased thanks to the use of tall, long, thin, curved and pointed frames. These frames typically adorned the palaces in groups of three. Once again, as in ancient times, the entrances and high-rise doors that were received with great interest were reborn.
Some destroyed cities were rebuilt again by order of Hulegu. Converting to Buddhism, he built a Buddhist temple and a beautiful palace in the city of Khoy. In the 1261 the well-known Maragheh observatory was built, with exaggerated costs, by an architect named Gharazi. His successors built many palaces and gardens, and Arghun (1282-1293) revived the architecture at a high level. The khanalid rulers became Buddhists first, then Christian, and soon afterward converted to Sunni Islam and finally to Shi'ism, and for this reason they built numerous churches and monasteries. Abaqa, in the 1276, had the great iwan of Takht-e Soleyman restored in Azerbaijan. At the end of the 13th century, beautiful monuments were built in Shiraz, but the strong earthquakes in the following years left no trace of it. The Friday Mosque of Urumiyeh bears an epigraph, dated 1278 and placed on the mihrab, which recalls the reconstruction of the mosque in place of an even older monument. This precious building has still preserved the characteristics of the Mongolian era, ie the large windows below the dome, the plaster decorations and the epigraphs that are much richer and more refined than those of the Seljuk period.
The kingdom of Ghazan (1296-1305) was characterized by an intense activity of architectural reconstruction. He had recently converted to Islam and received an Iranian education; as soon as he came to power, he confessed that he had inherited a destroyed country, so in order to rebuild, he started a great project, such as to create valid and important works in the time frame of 10 years. He decided to build a mosque and a public bath in each city and to devolve the income of the public bath at the expense of maintaining the mosque. He created a citadel near Tabriz, named Shanb Qazan, which had no equal in addition to the Persepolis monument, in terms of variety, organization and grandeur. According to historical evidence, Ghazan controlled the plants and their execution in person; it is even said that he himself prepared the plants of the citadel's palaces. His tomb, of which only a mass of earth and stone remained, was a complex of 12 palaces that included a monastery, a madrasa, a hospital, a library, a court, the state court, an observatory, a summer residence, beautiful gardens and tree-lined avenues. The tomb itself was a monument of 12 tower-shaped sides, the diameter of 15 meters and a dome 80 meters high, with a high cornice, the golden perimeter epigraphs and the surface of the majolica tiles of turquoise, blue and black with different geometric designs. About 4000 workers worked four years to complete the building. This monument was still standing up to 400 years ago, despite the strong and continuous earthquakes.
Rashid ad-Din, inspired by Khazan, founded a university town in Tabriz. It included 24 caravanserragli, 1500 stores, 30.000 housing, neighborhoods for students from other regions, hospitals, reception centers, gardens for foreigners and travelers; the latter were larger than those of similar monuments. Nothing remains of this citadel, known as Rashidiyeh, except for a few ruins.
Oljaitu, Khazan's younger brother, (1305-1317), founded, as his capital, a beautiful city in the beautiful green plains of Sultaniyeh, whose foundation began in 1306 and ended in 1314. It was a huge undertaking as a city as large as Tabriz was built in a short time. The mausoleum of Oljaitu dominated the whole city. It is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Iranian architecture. It is known that Oljaitu converted to Shiism and chose the name of Mohammad Khodabandeh (Mohammad, 'servant of God') and built this monument to transfer the remains of Imam Ali (peace on him) and Hossein ibn Ali (peace on of him). But the ulema of the city of Najaf forbade it and so the monument became his own sepulcher.
The structure of this mausoleum is octagonal, with a semicircular dome of 54 meters in height and 25 meters in diameter, covered with majolica tiles, and a large frame worked in moqarnas. On each of the eight sides there is an ornate and painted minaret of a shining celestial color and all together they seem to fit the dome like a precious stone inside them. On the second floor there are some external corridors. This is an innovation compared to the monuments of Khajeh Rabie of Ghadamgah and the Taj-e Mahal. The thickness of the walls is eight meters, but it seems smaller thanks to the large and tall arched facades. The angles of these arches are completely confused with the base of the imposing hemispherical dome, through some less deep moqarnas. The interior space of the monument is very large but not empty or meaningless. All the elements of the monument are united in a great serene harmony. Some windows allow light to enter through grilles, whose railings are machined and installed with great skill. The dome, despite the large volume, seems light and lively, and is built, perhaps for the first time ever, in two layers.
Light yellow gold bricks, in which small pieces of blue majolica are inlaid to create epigraphs with lettering in Cufic characters, covering all the walls. In the 1314 year the interior of the monument was again decorated with stucco works. The decorations were created by the best designers of the time, who often worked with a very low salary and very modest means. The projects were different: a grid of majolica tiles painted with flowers of various colors: ruby red, rust, dark blue and golden yellow on a light background; many epigraphs, with writings of Koranic verses, were hung everywhere, on the columns, on the entire perimeter of the dome and on all the arched facades. The arches of the twenty-four external corridors, of which three on each side of the monument, built according to the Sassanid style (a large arch in the middle and two small on the sides), were decorated with painted frames of interesting geometric designs. They were very beautiful and enchanting for the project and for the color and in them the finishing of the layers and cracks were carried out. Corrugated stucco decorations, executed with great precision, embellished the lower part of the windows' arches.
Ali Shah was the architect of the Oljaitu mausoleum and the citadel of Shanb Qazan of Tabriz. At the same time as the mausoleum, he also built the Friday mosque of Tabriz, whose work began in 1313 and ended in 1324. This mosque is characterized by large dimensions wanted from the beginning by Ghazan. It is the most solid brick building still standing today. The prayer hall has the measurements of 30 × 50 meters and the distance between the entrance door and the mihrab is 65 meters. The base of the arch, which is 45 meters high, begins at 25 meters from the ground, and there are a couple of minarets whose base was at the same level as the arch and the height from the ground of about 60 meters. The entrance of the iwan led to a yard of 228 × 285 meters in which the ground was covered entirely in marble, while the walls were built of stone. The courtyard was surrounded by stone arches and robust golden-yellow columns. The largest door, 9 m², had been carved from a single block of limestone and was also visible from a distance, while the other doors were made of wood and coated and reinforced with metal plates. The rooms and the iwan were lined with inlaid majolica tiles. The upper perimeter of the monument consisted of large epigraphs written in yellow on a background painted with flowers and plants. Equally grandiose was the interior of the building. A mihrab covered with majolica tiles glazed with yellow, the columns of bronze covered with gold and silver, the cross-linked windows with bronze domes above, the inlaid crystal lamps silver in the great prayer hall, they formed a grandiose and magnificent ensemble. The large arch of the building collapsed after a few years and was not restored, but the building itself continued to be used for many centuries. After the construction of this monument, hundreds of Tabriz artisans went to all the regions of the country to build other buildings with the same kind of grandiose architecture.
The mausoleum of Bayazid Bastami was built by order of Ghazan and Oljaitu in the 14th century. In this monument is a set of non-homogeneous constructions including some works of the ninth century, a minaret of the year 1201, a simple tower, in the style of the Gonbad-e Qabus tower, but even simpler, of the year 1301, an interesting mihrab with stucco decorations of the year 1268 and finally some frames with very refined stucco decorations.
In the city of Natanz a complex similar to that of Bastam was built, but more homogeneous and much more beautiful. Natanz is one of the most relaxing mountain towns in Iran. Thanks to its pleasant mountain climate, it has become a place of rest for the populations of the cities of Yazd and Kashan, and sometimes we also go to Isfahan for hunting and fun. Natanz is embellished by a group of palaces and religious monuments connected to each other. In some cases it is noted that the wall of one of the buildings is connected to the structure of another, while the components and elements of the buildings are completely separate and distinct.
The four-iwan Friday mosque is dated 1205-10, and some clues show that this mosque was built on the site of an even older monument. The small mosque, untidy and confused and with almost improper proportions, due to the small size of the foundations, fully possesses the characteristics of the Ilkhanid period, with the exception of the fact that it does not have many decorations. The spiritual center of this religious complex is the tomb of Abu Samad built in 1308. The room including the tomb is 18 m², very beautiful and with a mystical atmosphere. Above the room there is an octagonal dome, covered with light blue majolica tiles that contrast with those of the minaret, 37 meters high, painted yellow. An epigraph, worked in plaster, very thin and gray and a another work in plaster and round form cover the column. The walls are embellished by some arches having in total twelve vertical parts ending in the painted ceiling frames. The natural light introduced by eight windows is shielded by a double grating, creating a pleasant half-light inside. The external light does not strike directly on the faithful in prayer, but rather gives a suspended light in space. The lower part of the room was initially covered with beautiful gold-colored majolica tiles ending in a mihrab of marvelous splendor. Currently it is kept in the Victoria & Albert museum in London. The adjacent monastery, which was built in the 1317, is now ruined and has remained a facade that is one of the most beautiful Iranian architectural works. The variety of the ornamental designs, the relief and the evidence of the turquoise majolica tiles are a beautiful example of the art of this period. The crescent shape above the entrance is high, grandiose and beautiful and perimetrically is adorned with drawings of the full moon. The main building of the monument, unlike others that are adorned with Islamic designs of flowers and seedlings or geometric shapes, has a canestrated pattern reminiscent of the mausoleum of Amir Ismail. Other ornaments of the building are: a cladding made of enamelled bricks, intertwined circles and other geometric shapes perimetrically decorated, some frames in Cufic characters with bands in calligraphy naskh. The gushvare, the niches and the secondary frames are also beautifully decorated, and the whole of the monument inspires a particular harmony.
At the beginning of the 14th century, the city of Varamin, like Natanz, also became the center of new architectural constructions, because the city of Ray was razed to the ground during the first attacks by the Mongols. In the 1288 was built the mausoleum of Ala ad-Din, very similar to the mausoleums of the north, which had 32 vertical sides, a conical dome covered with majolica tiles, an epigraph with deep ornithic incisions and a perimeter frame on the roof built with blue and earthenware majolica tiles. In the 1308 the Sharif mosque was built, today completely destroyed, and in the 1322 the Friday mosque was built. The construction of this great mosque ended in 1327 during the reign of Abu Said, the last sovereign ilkhanide. It was designed with the utmost precision. The well proportioned and precise dimensions show that the architect was a profound connoisseur of aesthetics and mathematics. The mosque, despite its modesty, highlights several decorative styles that include beautiful decorations obtained with rows of majolica tiles of blue color, interspersed with pieces of light yellow earthenware, paintings of flowers and plants and the shadows of the protruding bricks. The epigraphs of the mosque, in Cufic and Naskh characters, have a fluted shape. On the gypsum-coated bases, thin strips made with precision are present. The interior of the room, in Selgiuchide style, is divided into 3 distinct sections: the section of the 4 arches, the section of the multilateral square modification and the section of the dome, that which was replaced with vertical frames at the time of the Ilkhanidi and with crescent-shaped buildings, which unloaded the weight of the dome directly to the ground. This palace stands out from other monuments of the ilkhanide period thanks to the perfection of the four iwan plant and its excellent compatibility with the other parts of the monument and with the whole complex. The harmony is such that the attention of the visitor moves in a completely natural and direct, from the external entrance to the tip of the mihrab and then to the dome, which dominates, with all its grace and elegance, the entire monument . An epigraph on the wall shows Ali Qazvini's name as an architect of the monument.
Among the precious but slightly modest monuments of this period, one must name the mausoleum of Pir-e Bakran, near Mobarakeh (Isfahan), which was built in 1304 and subsequently restored in 1313. The palace is a single iwan, in the style of Taq-e Kasra. The decoration of the monument consists of a coating with thin tiles of blue and turquoise majolica and mihrab decorated with stucco. The date of these decorations is the 1304 which coincides exactly with the year of construction of the Oljaitu mihrab in the Friday mosque of Isfahan. The artist of the mihrab of the mausoleum is Mohammad Shah, son of Mahmud Shah the painter of Kerman who also designed and built the pulpit of the Atiq mosque in Nain. In this mihrab one does not see the refinement of Oljaitu's, but his plasterwork has a strong mystic-spiritual aspect, which elevates man suspended in different directions of space.
Also the mosque of the Friday of Yazd, according to an ancient tradition, includes a set of monuments and palaces built in different periods. The mosque was built in place of a temple of fire and during the reign of the Safavids it had great power and wealth. Its splendor began in the 1335 and lasted around 50 years. The entrance iwan, with an arched ceiling, leads to the courtyard and, unlike the traditional style of iwan-framed mosques, is not located in the opposite direction to the prayer hall. The hall is very high and the minaret of this mosque is the highest in Iran. One of the iwan's arches is high up below the dome. The mihrab placed under the dome has a beautiful majolica tile decoration whose construction date is 1366 year. On its two sides there are some rooms that have neighboring arches: this was one of the inventions of the Sassanid era that was applied in the construction of this mosque after about a thousand years. The iwan and the great hall have a vertical upward movement. The bow of the iwan, X-shaped, is built very tall because of its width. Its upward movement is strengthened by means of small columns whose height, at times, is a hundred times their diameters.
Another mosque, built in the same era and almost of the same style, is the Kerman Friday mosque. Built in the 1350 and restored in the 1560, it is a four-iwan building with a very high arched portal, almost similar to that of the Yazd mosque. The majolica tiles, inlaid and colored, are of excellent quality.
Another monument that could be considered a good example of the architectural production of that period is a mausoleum in the city of Tus in Khorasan that has similarities with the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar (a corridor on the second floor is designed and built to contain the pressure of the dome on the building) both with the Jabal Sang monument of Kerman of the twelfth-thirteenth century, as well as possessing some characteristics of the Sassanid architecture. In it we also see details applied in Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh. The vertical furrows give a feeling of enormous force to the facade of the building, a feature already applied in the Sultaniyeh monument. The plasterwork frames of this monument are reminiscent of the mausoleum of Bayazid Bastami, but here there are no colorful decorations or majolica tiles and the walls are all whitewashed with plaster. The measures with regular proportions, the multiple order of 3 in all parts of the building (a Sasanian particularity), the walls and the wide framings of the 4 arched façades, the lack of gushvare etc., are all factors that create a feeling of solidity and stillness.
After the death of Abu Saiid, the last ruler of ilkhanide, in the 1336, despite the confusion, the civil war and the struggles between the local governors, the architectural tradition continued, particularly in the central areas of the country, including around the city of Qom, where there are about 15 tower mausoleums, the most important of which is the Ala ad-Din mausoleum of the year 1391 which is a beautiful example of this kind of monuments. They are often octagonal, the walls are inclined inwards, the domes are conical or multilateral. The internal surfaces of the domes are decorated with majolica tiles, beautiful and inlaid, with engravings or with plaster decorations. Some of them, especially the colored ones, are reminiscent of Sultaniyeh's decorations.
Iran's Ilkhanid architecture has a special connection with the Seljuk architecture, even in some cases such as the Gonbad-and Alaviyan monument: the precise recognition of the period of its construction is rather difficult. However, the ilkhanide architecture is much lighter than Seljuk's and has the most beautiful shape. In the Ilkhanid monuments, the dimensions of the elements are larger and the color of the façade is greater. The art of inlaying majolica tiles in this period reaches the peak of its splendor and while being very difficult to perform, as it requires a lot of time, patience and precision, the Iranian artist manages to execute it masterfully. In these monuments the dome generally occupies the building and fits, with a particular grace, to the rest of the monument. In this period serious building problems were faced and resolved much better than the Seljuk period. The neighboring arches were perfected in Yazd and Isfahan and the brickwork found its own perfection. The iwan became tall and wide and the entrance minarets were built in pairs and closer together. The columns and the arched façades increased in height, the courtyards were narrowed and the four-iwan plant was perfected.
The decoration in the ilkhanide period
As mentioned in the previous pages, the presence of color or colored cladding marked a particular turning point in the Ilkhanid monuments, to the point that they gradually replaced the stucco decorations. The colored majolica tiles, which at the beginning were almost only in turquoise color, varied in color, including the colors blue, black and yellow. In the Oljaitu mausoleum, the tile decorations consist of inlays or tiles, glazed and cut according to an already prepared design, placed next to each other to highlight the design on the wall. As far as the adornment decoration was concerned, it was proceeded in this way: first, the desired design and the combination in real measurements were traced on sheets of paper, considering the spaces and the necessary distances between the pieces that had to be filled in the following phases. Then, in succession, the various components of the design were perforated, then the drawing was placed on a layer of chalk laid on the ground and the coal or red powder spread over the holes. Thus the drawing was transmitted from the sheet of paper onto the chalk in the dotted form and then through those dots, the drawing on the plaster was repeated. After which the drawing was cut to pieces on the sheet of paper and these had to be highlighted in the inlay of majolica tiles, then the tiles had to be cut according to the pieces of the drawing. The pieces of majolica were arranged above the drawing on the layer of plaster and then the spaces and the sutures were filled between the pieces with a sticker; after it had become dry, the set of majolica tiles attached to the plaster was attached to the wall with the same adhesive material, which could be concrete. This operation is similar to that for the manufacture of stained glass windows of Romanesque and Gothic art in Europe. But it is not precisely clear whether the Europeans, in particular the French, had learned them from Iran or had been their invention. It is certain that both methods were born in the same period and it is very unlikely that the Iranians had been aware of the French method of making colored glass or vice versa that the French had known the Iranian method of inlaying majolica tiles.
The style of work is different in the complex of the Mausoleum of Bayazid Bastami in the city of Bastam. The majolica tiles used in the large entrance or in the tomb room are turquoise, but are not worked with the inlay method, but are shaped like thin painted bricks. In this method, beforehand, the relevant design was painted and engraved on quadrangular bricks, squares or rectangles, and after having colored them, the surface was polished with enamel. The decorations obtained with colored majolica tiles are not many and there is something left over the great entrance to the monastery; these turquoise tiles are similar to those of the Sultaniyeh monument, while the plaster decorations are more prominent here. The tomb of Shaykh Abd os-Samad, which is attached to the mosque, is adorned with beautiful moqarnas and an inscription carved in plaster and painted with floral motifs. This shrine had previously a mihrab decorated with terracotta tiles, which was the pride of the Abu Taleb Kashani family, but disappeared after the end of the nineteenth century and it is not known in which museum or in which private artistic collection it is preserved!
In the beautiful palace of the Imam zadeh J'afar mausoleum of Isfahan, built 15 years later that of Oljaitu, two colors are used, dark blue and light blue on a pure white background, which gave life to a true masterpiece. The architectural style of this monument is similar to those of the city of Maragheh, ie it has a tall tower and a single room decorated with an inlay of colored majolica tiles. The inlay work of this building is very precious both technically and aesthetically. The processing method was unknown in the Seljuk period. But after his execution in this monument, he was quickly welcomed and continued until the time of Shah Abbas's reign. The inlay processing date is the year 1327.
Two other beautiful monuments of this period, built by Abol Hasan Talut Damghani in Isfahan, are the Imami madrasa of 1321-1341 (built for the scholar and religious leader of the time Mohammad Baba Kazem Isfahani) and the mausoleum of Imam Zadeh Kazem near to the madrasa, of the 1342. In the decorations of the Imamian madrasa the colors turquoise, blue and white are used, while the yellow in those of the mausoleum has also been added. The date of the decoration of the madrasa is different from the date of construction. These decorations ended during the Mozaffaridi period during the reign of Shah Mahmud, between the years 1358-74, at the same time as the construction of the madrasa adjacent to the Friday mosque in Isfahan.
In northeastern Iran, in the legendary village of Turan, the building decoration was of particular importance and the influence of the mausoleum of Amir Ismail was well known. The decoration was sometimes considered so important as to replace the building form. The ornamental works were so marvelous to obscure and even overshadow the structure of the monument, almost as it did in the seventeenth century in the European Baroque. In any case, these decorations have a singular attraction and were made according to all the best principles. The ornamental works had a particular celebrity during the reign of Tamerlane.
Tamerlano and his successors
In the second half of the fourteenth century, once again, a bloody and destructive Mongol, taking advantage of the confusion and the political turmoil of Iran, violently attacked the territory of the country. Tamerlano, in the year 1395, went to the heart of Iran. Again many cities were razed to the ground and so many people were massacred. Thus ended the fourteenth century that began in the sign of the reconstruction and construction of beautiful and grand palaces, trying to forget the memories of the devastations perpetrated by the Mongols during their first invasion. Many of those grandiose monuments built with immense effort were completely destroyed. Tamerlane, like his Mongolian predecessors, was ruthless and bloody, but his destruction was less than those of Chengiz Khan. He preserved so many sacred places from destruction and showed interest in the grandiose palaces.
Tamerlane had many artists and artisans deported from every city and place occupied to Samarkand, his capital. Thus, after the occupation of Shiraz, he deported 200 hostage among architects, artists and artisans to Samarkand in order to create works even in that city. It is for this reason that one should visit the region of the Great Khorasan, where there are the most beautiful monuments and the most magnificent decoration works of the Timurid period.
In the fourteenth century, Iranian architecture was based on the techniques and innovations of the Seljuk era that had achieved unprecedented perfection thanks to them. The descendants and the Mongol and Timurid successors continued using the same method. On the other hand, Tamerlano's successors generally encouraged artists and promoted Iranian culture. It was during this period that Iranian art found a new splendor and a new expansion.
Tamerlano, to build important monuments in his capital, Samarcanda, who wanted to become worthy of his fame and his conquests, he deported, as we said before, the architects and craftsmen experienced in the processing and decoration of the majolica tiles from the Central Iran, from the Fars, from Azerbaijan and even from the cities of Baghdad and Damascus, to that city, taking the stonemasons and the stone squaring craftsmen from India. In this way he built a great mosque in Samarkand with no equal in the world. This had a large prayer hall with 260 columns and a minaret at each corner and above the palace a polished marble dome; however, he did not like the monument and he ordered the architect to be killed.
In the 1346-47, Tamerlano built a large palace in Kash, his hometown. Kolavikhu, a historique of the period that visited the palace sixty years later, while the construction work was still under way, described the project and the plan of the monument as an unprecedented novelty. The façade had three porticos and recalled the Arteserse palace in Firuzabad. The reception rooms led back to the entrance iwan at a right angle. The height of the iwan arch was 50 meters and on its two sides two minarets were erected with the twelve-sided base. The central iwan led to a three hundred man-width courtyard, clad in marble, and on the other side was a large iwan opening onto a large reception room whose walls and ceiling were clad majolica tiles in yellow and light blue, golden and inlaid colors, and in several places there were works in plaster and plastering. The rear building had corridors and several rooms on six floors, all covered with golden majolica tiles. Behind the reception room there was a large wall clad in all its beauty, with inlaid majolica tiles and in the colors blue, turquoise, white, chocolate, green and yellowish brown. In order to avoid that the variety and the high number of drawings and paintings made the monument unbearable, a precise geometric perimeter design coordinated the multiplicity of drawings and paintings according to precise proportions. The rectangular frames, made with inlaid majolica tiles, in different designs and sizes, were perimetrically painted with flowers and plants, and bas-relief inscriptions were installed symmetrically on the walls. With regard to the measurements and the dimensions of the frames, their locations were precisely calculated and defined in relation to the measurements and general dimensions of the monument. A large frame adorned with carvings in Cufic characters increased the prestige of the monument and the concentration of large drawings in particular places and their symmetry made the decorations lighter. The complex was built in the middle of fruit gardens and a vast lawn.
From the description of the monument, of the great iwan and of its height, of the back wall, of the six floors, it is clear that the architect had taken as a model the palace of Shapur in Ctesiphon, replacing the ornaments worked in plaster with the tiles of majolica inlaid. It is certain that such a grandiose monument had never been built before in the territories of the Iranian plateau, since the conversion of Central and Western Asia to Islam. This demonstrates the genius and talent of Iranians in the fields of aesthetics and architecture. Nothing is left of this palace except a huge ruin in which beautiful colors are still visible.
Another great monument from the Tamerlane period is the Bibi Khatun mosque in Samarkand, whose construction began in 1399 and ended in 1405. According to Kolavikhu's accounts, this mosque, of which only ruins are currently left, was the most splendid monument of Samarkand; it had an arched entrance to 40 meters in height and 17 meters in width that led to a yard the size of 90 × 60 meters, as well as eight minarets and three domes covered with golden bricks.
The tomb of Tamerlane is one of the architectural works of the period that was built in 1405 and is still considered a grandiose work of the historical architecture of Samarkand. This monument has an octagonal room, a dome with sixty-four protruding slits, resting on a cylindrical base. There are four main entrances from four main directions, which shows that the architect had present the Sassanid buildings. On the other hand, the shape of the dome with cracks was imitated by the architectural style of the domes of that era and is demonstrated by the poem composed about the ancient dome of the mausoleum of Shah Cheragh in Shiraz which says:
rain of light falls from this dome
from the door of the new mosque to the door of Shah Cheragh!
The dome is covered with light blue majolica tiles and its long and high base is adorned with an epigraph in Cufic characters and built with bright yellow bricks. The art of the "aesthetics of contrast", which was a particularity of the fourteenth century, is very evident both outside and inside the building. The marble bases of the columns, the frame built with jade stone in gray and green, some arches made of black concrete and finally the marble balustrade, complete the decorations of the monument. In the 1456 Elegh Beg, he added an entrance to the palace, built with excellent inlaid majolica tiles. This entrance was the work of Mohammad ibn Mahmud Esfahani.
In the present territory of Iran there is not a noteworthy work of the Tamerlane period. He dealt more with the area of northern Khorasan, ie the regions around the river of Jeyhun, Marv, Bukhara and especially the city of Samarkand, its capital. For this reason we will speak separately of the art of these regions. The art of this part of the Great Iran, which is currently known as Central Asia, is an Iranian art, as its foundations were laid by the Samanids and Khwarezmasha, and during the reign of the Seljuks it was perfected , reaching the apex in the period of Tamerlane and its successors thanks to the artists of the cities of Shiraz and Isfahan.
The splendor of the Shahrokh period
After the death of Tamerlane in the 1406, his son Shahrokh came to power in the city of Herat. He occupied the region beyond the river of Jeyhun in 1408, extending his kingdom over the whole of Khorasan, Kabol and Herat, or eastern Iran. In Herat he built a madrasa and mossalla, whose construction work began in 1391 and ended in 1438. Shahrokh, unlike his father, was a peaceful sovereign and a supporter of art. The great madrasa founded by him in Herat was similar to the beautiful monuments built by Tamerlane in Samarkand. The dimensions of the courtyard of the madrasa was 105 × 57 meters. The building had a few domes and eight minarets, of which six remained standing. The upper part of them is frescoed and the bases are of marble. Next to the madrasa is the mausoleum of Goharshad, wife of Shahrokh. These monuments are adorned with beautiful inlaid majolica tiles and are mostly painted with geometric designs.
Khargard's madrasa, another architectural work of that era, whose construction work ended in the year 1445, is a unique and compact monument and was designed by Qavam and Qias ad-Din Shirazi. The building has a well-proportioned size of a four-iwan madrasa. The courtyard is square with iwan of the same height, of which the entrance is in the form of three arches above which there is a dome. This monument is adorned with frescoes, paintings, epigraphs carved in plaster and some moqarnas intertwined with each other. The walls of the courtyard walls with inlaid majolica tiles are particularly rich in design and execution. The facade is low and wide with a very nice entrance. The side walls of the entrance are in the form of pointed arches that connect to low towers. The entire facade of the building has a horizontal and extended shape, which is a novelty in the timurid (or gurkanide) architecture.
The monument to the Shams ad-Din mausoleum in Yazd, another work of the period, is adorned with painted plaster decorations. The geometric designs in the shape of a diamond, as seen in the decorations with majolica tiles of the timurid buildings in Samarkand, constitute the marginal ornaments of the entrance.
Among the other monuments belonging to the period of Shahrokh's reign, we can mention: the mausoleum of Torbat-e Shaykh-e Jam, with a high portal and a low dome; the mausoleum of Khajeh Abdollah Ansari, restored by Shahrokh in the 1429; the Kali mosque in the city of Torbat-e Jam.
Mashad Goharshad Mosque is the grandest historical monument of the Shahrokh period and was built in 1419 next to the Imam Ali ibn Musa ar-Reza sanctuary (peace be upon him). The entrance to the monument is in Samarcanda's own style, that is an arch that leads to another arch, which was the same style as the architects of Shiraz, in which a certain number of projections and depths in the upper part of the arches confer greater solidity and power to the monument. The side minarets of the entrance are a little sturdier than those built at the time of the Seljuks and Ilkhanids. The minarets, the walls and the peristyles are covered with beautiful majolica tiles inlaid and enamelled in different colors such as blue, turquoise, white, light green, saffron yellow, blonde yellow and ebony black. The designs are geometric, with a particular variety and are harmonized with floral painting. The dome is so large that it is visible even from a great distance. The decorations of the monument are designed with great skill in such a way as to avoid monotony and contrast. This is one of the aesthetic characteristics of the monument, made possible thanks to the harmonization between the floral painting, the different geometric designs, the projections and the depths of the lateral peristyles and the open corridors in the middle. The iwan of the great prayer hall is all white while the other three are adorned with epigraphs in cufic characters, of light turquoise color with the shade in white and of green color on the red background. In the decoration of the courtyard of the mosque various decorative styles worthy of being admired are used. The architectural style of the monument, like most of the monuments of the Timurid period, was that of southern Iran, or the style of Shiraz. The architect of the Goharshad mosque was Qavam ad-Din Shirazi, who built the largest number of monuments in the Shahrokh era.
Pope maintains: "Although most of the timurid monuments were built in the north of the country, genius and architectural and ornamental talent were exclusive to the regions of Shiraz and Isfahan". The best designers and craftsmen from the west, central and southern Iran were hired by the Timurids, enriching the east and north of the country from an architectural point of view, but after the domino of Jahan Shah Qaraqoyunlu Western, southern and central regions of Iran, the city of Isfahan managed to overcome the other Iranian cities in the field of decoration with inlaid majolica tiles.
Even the Shah area of the year 1448 in the Friday mosque of Isfahan, designed by Sayed Mahmud Nami, could match the works performed in the Khorasan region, but not in terms of color. The arch of the Darb-e Imam entrance, of the year 1454, is one of the most beautiful works of Iranian architecture and decoration. The construction of this monument began at the time of the reign of the Muzaffarids and ended during the reign of Jahan Shah Qaraqoyunlu. This palace was built on the tombs of two descendants of the Prophet, Ebrahim Bathi and Zain ol-Abedin. The building works ended in the 1479 year. The main iwan, which was connected to the corridor whose entrance was closed during the reign of the Safavids, is one of the masterpieces of Iran's colorful works. In this regard A. Godard writes: "The dimensions of this work are calculated with the utmost precision and the painting and distribution of colors are rendered in all their beauty; the quality of the work is so perfect that the visitor is enchanted by it and does not experience such pleasure in seeing any other work of this art except for the Blue Mosque of Tabriz, also constituted at the time of Jahan Shah. In reality we are facing a true masterpiece. "
The entrance Darb Imam, whose iwan mentioned was in front of it, was a single hall until its transformation into the interior of the mausoleum, at the time of Shah Solayman. The outer covering of the dome, which covers the main hall of the monument, was restored at the time by both Shah Abbas the Great and Shah Solayman and during the reign of the latter a small dome was built over the iwan. There is still a part of the epigraph written by the calligraph Reza Emami in the 1703.
The Tabriz Blue Mosque was built almost simultaneously at the Darb Imam palace in Isfahan. This mosque is a masterpiece of ecoration with colorful majolica tiles and Iranian decorative art in the 15th century. The mosque collapsed in the 1466 during an earthquake that destroyed the city of Tabriz causing 70.000 victims. Nothing is left of this mosque except for a few columns, the outer wall and its façade, which however is in despicable condition. This monument is one of the few entirely covered mosques, as the cold climate of Tabriz made it mandatory. Madame Dieulafoy, who visited the mosque in the nineteenth century, writes in an article that the internal façade of the entrance arch was adorned with beautiful majolica tiles inlaid with such precision and finesse that it looked like one piece. The designs were flowers intertwined with each other and did not resemble those of the Seljuk and ilkhanide periods. There was such a harmony between its light blue, dark green, white, straw yellow color and the dark blue paint that drove away the monotony without compromising the appearance and the beauty of the complex in any way, and it was for this reason that the mosque took the name of Kabud which in the Farsi language means 'blue'.
From a low door we entered the nave or the prayer room which was composed of two large rooms and covered by a large dome, and around the halls there was a connecting corridor. The first room was covered with inlaid majolica tiles, whose designs seemed to protrude thanks to the use of reddish blue bricks, although it was not so evident where equal and uniform tiles had been used. The second room instead, where the mihrab was, was decorated with small blue bricks cut in hexagonal shape, so the dark blue tiles, painted on the perimeter of leaves and yellow flowers, stood out with greater beauty. The colorful decoration of one of the halls explains why the mosque was called "Masjed-e kabud" or "Blue Mosque", which derives from the color that dominates the decoration of the entire hall. In fact what made her famous as one of the masterpieces of the use of inlaid majolica tiles, was how to combine new and various colors in it. Colors like brown, straw yellow, purple green and the color of dried leaves were combined with unprecedented harmony and compatibility. These colors were also used in Mashad's Goharshad mosque, but their uniformity is less due to the fact that the natural red color of the brick was used. Here, in contact with the blue background color, it gives the impression of purple color that is not so pleasant, while in the Kabud mosque of Tabriz the colors are distributed more evenly and much better and moreover the color of the brick is not in contact direct with the colors of the majolica tiles and therefore the painting appears more alive. The architect of the Kabud mosque, as reported on the epigraph above the entrance, was Nematollah ibn Mohammad Bavvab. On either side of the long façade (about 50 meters), there were two round towers with a minaret each that testify to the timurid style. The mosque had a total of nine domes.
The Friday mosque in Isfahan was also completed during the reign of Jahan Shah. Its entrance, located west of the courtyard, is shaped like a beautiful arch that has been restored in the past decades. The date of the decoration is different from the date of construction of other areas of the mosque that were built at the time of Uzun Hasan Aq Qoyunlu. During the reign of Abol Mozaffar Rostam Bahador Khan, the nephew of Uzun Hasan, general restorations were carried out on the mosque; the date of the restoration, as reported on the iwan epigraph of the south side of the mosque, is the year 1463 The processing of majolica tiles in southern iwan are protruding and resemble the work of inlaying the Darb Imam mosque .
In general, the decorations of the Uzun Hasan era are freer, softer, more varied and more innovative than those of the time of Jahan Shah.
Of other timuride works from the 15th century in present-day Iran, the following can be mentioned:
1) the Shah Mosque of the year 1452 in Mashad, whose dome is more authentic and more complete than that of the Goharshad mosque. Inside the dome, a protruding green ornamental slit on the bottom in light orange and white colors, above the base, creates a wonderful appearance
2) the madrasa "Do Dar" (two doors) to Mashad which has a beautiful dome, more pronounced than that of the Shah mosque. In it there is a protruding epigraph, in the Persian sols calligraphic style, placed at half height and below it there are vertical and ornate windows, to which the wooden gratings give an interesting and pleasant aspect.
The other arts in the period of Ilkhanidi and Timuridae
The evolution of the arts spread in the Sassanid era continued in the following centuries until the tenth century, with the same styles and methods. Of these periods there are few examples of fabrics, carpets, painted metal plates, glass, terracotta, etc., sometimes accompanied by Islamic drawings and epigraphs. From the 11th century onwards, particularly in the Seljuq period, some of these arts, including metalworking, became more important and prestigious, with an evident impact in almost the entire Islamic world. The Mamelukes' metallurgy was strongly influenced by the Iranian art of the Sasanians and the Seljuks, and in the works produced, the same projects, drawings and paintings of the Iranian works were employed with minor differences.
However some of the Sassanid arts, after the victory of the Muslims on Iran, were abandoned and forgotten, among these the sculpture, the incisions etc ..., which met some limitations from the religion while the art of the glass, of the terracotta and of the fabric they continued to be practiced. The numismatics continued until the second half of the seventh century, with the Sassanid designs in addition to the Islamic words. The first entirely Islamic coins were minted around the 702-3.
The influence of Sassanid art in the early centuries of the Islamic era was felt even in Christian Europe, even up to the eleventh and twelfth centuries, so much so that the frescoes of the Palatine Chapel of Palermo appear influenced, as claimed by the French André Godard, from the Sassanid art, and as confirmed by the other French Roman Ghirshman: "In the relief paintings of the entrances of the Gothic churches of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there are clear imitations of the Sassanid art."
Paintings dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries, ie the Samanid period, have been found in Nishapur. Through an analysis of Iranian literature from the beginning of the Islamic era, we find that if the mosques, madrasas, monasteries and convents were without paintings and frescoes, in the private homes instead the walls and the curtains were decorated with paintings representing human and animal faces.
The poems on the nature of man and spring composed by Sa'adi, an illustrious Iranian poet, are an excellent demonstration of this thesis:
If being a man means having eyes, mouth, ears and nose
what difference would it make if the painting on the wall was in the midst of humanity.
All this strange and wonderful painting on the door and on the wall of existence,
anyone who did not meditate on it would be like a painting on the wall.
There were no notable figurative works of the first century of the Islamic era, but in the history and specialized books, Chinese artists talked about the books painted as Kalilah va Dimnah, during the reign of Nasser ibn Nuh samanide. In truth, until the time of Tamerlane and his successors, the figurative works and paintings were influenced by foreigners, above all Arab and Chinese.
The decorated books were the scientific ones such as "Manaf'e ol-Heiwan" by Ibn Bakhtishui or the historical ones like "Jam'e ot-Tawarikh" by Rashid ad-Din which is of the year 1316 The representations of the first book are images of animals, birds and plants, painted with the utmost refinement, and in them you can clearly see the influence of the Chinese style. Also the images and paintings of the second book, with the exception of some images depicting the faces of Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (the peace of God on him) and the uncle of the Prophet, Hamzeh (God's peace on him) , which are Arabic in appearance, are influenced by the style of Chinese painting.
So very few are the works of the Ilkhanidi era in which the Iranian component dominates, while we note that during the reign of Tamerlane and his successors, who in spite of wars and bloody assaults had highly regarded the art, the component " Iranian "rediscovered prestige and superiority and, with the exception of faces retaining Mongolian traits, the rest of the components of the image, the method of combination and the use of basic geometry are completely Iranian and do not show any foreign influence.
During the time of the Timurids there were at the same time three schools or better three artistic currents: the school of Baghdad or the current Jalayeri, which was headed by the famous painter Jonaid Soltani; the school of Tabriz which, together with that of Baghdad, were at the height of fame and prestige at the end of the fourteenth century, and the Timurid school of Samarkand. Most of the works painted according to the style of this school consists of books of astrology and collections of poems by famous poets such as Khajavi Kermani, Hafez and Nezami, in particular the story of Homay and Homayun by Khajavy Kermani, whose text is written by the calligrapher Mir Ali Tabrizi and the paintings are works by Jonaid Soltani.
In the works of this period, which marked the beginning of Herat's style, the colors are stronger, bright and pure and are produced by milling precious stones of various colors such as lapis lazuli, topaz, sapphire, ruby and amber and also gold, that have the advantage of not modifying themselves. This method of strong and pure coloring was widespread in the works belonging to the Shiraz style of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The copy of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh book, transcribed in 1397 by the calligrapher Lotf ad-Din Yahya ibn Mohammad, which now belongs to the national library of Egypt, and another copy of the same book, transcribed in 1401, and currently belonging to the collection of Englishman Chester Beatty, both were painted in Shiraz. These paintings are pure and authentic and different from the works of the schools of Jalayeri and Tabriz and it can be said that in the school of Shiraz, the foreign impact was reduced to a minimum. In these works the proportions in the colors are remarkable and the drawings are more precise and full of novelties.
The variety in color and composition of images, which are not so popular with Westerners, is one of the characteristics of Iranian art. This fact, from that time on, was imitated as a continuous tradition, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the Iranian artists and even the Indian and Ottoman artists. So one can courageously say that the support and attention of the Jalyirids to authentic painting and colors is so important that it could be considered a revolution in Iranian painting after the Sassanid era.
After Tamerlane, his son Shahrokh chose the city of Herat as his capital and appointed other timid principles as governors of the different regions of Iran. Olegh Beg thus became the governor of Samarkand and the Transoxiana and Ebrahim Soltan assumed the government of Shiraz. During his reign the libraries acquired prestige and the artists from all over, from Shiraz, Tabriz, and elsewhere, left for Herat. Also at the time of Shahrokh and after the trip of the court painter Qias ad-Din to the Ming court in China, the influences of Chinese styles increased, even if it concerned only the design of the components of the composition. Meanwhile, the Iranian-Chinese elements mingled and became so similar that one can not say whether those works are Chinese but painted by Iranians or vice versa are Iranian works that the Chinese artist has imitated!
At the time of Baisonqor, son of Shahrokh, the Timurid school reached its peak. Baisonqor himself was a painter and an excellent calligrapher. During the 39 years of his reign, arts such as painting, binding and in general figurative arts reached the peak of splendor and the school of Herat became the greatest cultural and artistic center of the time, gaining fame in the world with Kamal ad-Din Behzad. Behzad was the first painter to sign his works. He became so famous that the Mongolian rulers of India tried to get his works and other Iranian artists imitated him. His methods of painting, after his death, became the rules of pictorial art. He was a contemporary of Sultan Hossein Baiqara and Shah Ismail Safavide. Behzad was appointed director of the royal library of Shah Ismail and later of Shah Tahmasb. His teachers in Herat were Pir Sayed Ahmad Tabrizi and Mirak Naqqash.