The History of Iran Art



The proto-Elamite period

The analysis of the numerous cylindrical seals dating back to the beginning of the fourth millennium allows us to understand that in parallel with the development of urban civilization in Mesopotamia and in theElam, there was a certain stagnation in the art of the region. The monotony of the drawings on the timbres, the absence of precision and refinement in the stroke and the engraving and the thematic repetition reveal that the golden age of this art was coming to an end. It seems that in this period the ancient urban genie creator of culture was leveled down with the working and humble classes, borrowing customs and lifestyle. Religious habits and traditions turned into superstition and doctrinal crudity, and cylindrical and spherical seals were used as talismans and amulets. This model of life spread throughout Mesopotamia, from north to south, from Syria to Ur, in the heart of Sumerian civilization, coming to infect Elam and southern Iran. Despite this, the most important Sumerian and Elamite cities were at the beginning of the internal differentiation of urban societies. In other words, there was a cultured, selected and "high" class that took care of the city's affairs and performed important administrative functions, as well as being the guardian of writing, introduced not long ago. And there was another class assigned to manual work, which constituted the majority of the population.

The invention of writing in Islam was undoubtedly contemporary with its introduction among the Sumerians. The first elamite script consisted of symbols and pictograms. However, it perfected itself quickly and so emerged the Sumerian script, completely independent of the first. With the appearance of this writing, the Elamite civilization came to completion; in it, people were drawn in full. Harmony in the variety of representations, an important feature of the previous eras in both Elam and Mesopotamia, disappeared. It seems that important changes have also occurred in administrative and governmental institutions, while the lifestyle became hybrid: ordinary people lived, so to speak, in the Mesopotamian way, while the ruling class, that is, the educated class, lived according to a purely elamite culture. . These changes in the social order brought with them a peculiar art, worthy of note like the one that preceded it. These are the main novelties: the artists began to neglect the expression of their emotions, more concerned with the technical aspects of the realization. On the other hand, together with the production of stamps and seals - which were the most important support for the artistic creation of the past ages - the ancient art of portraiture also emerged. The art and the metallurgical technique were perfected, and the decorative painting on ceramics met a new style very different from the previous styles. At the same time, the peculiarities of the ancient period were resurrected to new splendor. The representations were of an unknown type to the engraving and relief drawing of the first timbres, in which the animals imitated men; here, however, human activities replace zoological scenes. The national epic is set aside and the themes are mainly satirical or hilar themes inherited from the past. Probably, a number of these themes are linked to new myths; the Elamites, in fact, ceased to represent their gods in human form, trying to transfigure supernatural forces into superhuman deities.

The typology of subjects represented in this era is made up above all of beings with an enormous body that indicated the equilibrium of the cosmos and the maintenance of its order and its stability. The sculptors used marble or limestone, or even sandstone, and a good number of small pots that have come down to us have animal forms - a peculiar trait of elamite taste and aesthetics. Moreover, statuettes have been found in the form of praying people carrying vases, or monkeys doing the same thing, or other animals; the statuettes have simple geometric shapes and somehow resemble the cubist sculpture of the twentieth century.

The designs of the cylindrical seals represent demons and mythological creatures out of the ordinary, unknown to the art of previous periods. For example, a lioness that prevents the collapse of a mountain, the mountain that in Elamite art is a symbol of the stability of the world; camels with precious metal paws, very similar to the lioness. Many statues, in which the influence of early urban periods is still evident, have been found in the administrative center of the city or in the citadel of the government. There is not much information on the architecture of this period, since no temple has remained standing, the major expressions of the architecture of the time.

The true history of the Elam of this period remains in reality still obscure, as it has not yet been possible to decipher the writing used. The only signs that we are able to read are those related to the calculations, which allow us to intuit a complex and vast economic activity. It is however established that in this epoch, the Elam constituted an evolved and comparable civilization to the Sumerian one, which had an extraordinary development. Had it not been so, the Elam would have been annihilated by the Sumerians.

Around the 3.000 a. C., in decorated the decorated ceramics of the other regions of Iran. Later, however, a new style emerged in the decorated pottery, which became elamite ceramics, and which became widely diffused, reaching the middle of the third century. You can call this style as "elamitico-sumerico", because many colors were used, just as it happened in the coeval pottery of Mesopotamia. The large ceramic artifacts, like pots and amphorae, were the most decorated; their surfaces were divided into demarcated areas, each of which framed a representation. The meaning of the unusual and exaggerated forms that fill these spaces is unknown to us. For example, an ox-drawn cart with flaming wheels, next to a two-storey pedestal. Near the pedestal is an eagle with wings spread over two other birds. The eagle with wings spread out above the sky can symbolize superior strength and protection from above. It is perhaps also a symbol of the mother who protects her children. Lowering the wings on someone since the earliest times is a sign of love and humility, as the Koran also says:

"Lower your wings on those who 

they follow you among the faithful "(Koran 26: 215)

It is possible that the drawings that decorate this jug are an expression of new religious beliefs that were consolidated by the Elamites: pairs of female and male deities, an "angel of the species" that moves on a cart, assisted by a servant or a minister standing, a priest placed on a pedestal or a throne, which welcomes the angel of the species in front of the temple. In the drawings on the right, this ceremony is unfolding and after the entrance of the angel in the temple two characters facing each other welcome the guests of this sacred banquet, approaching them.

This scene presents a widespread cult at the time in Mesopotamia. The Sumerian origin of the elements of the design is assured, while the design itself and the style are elamitic, because the chariot was an invention of the inhabitants of western Iran, from where it subsequently spread to Mesopotamia. The great quantity of these painted furnishings, dating back to the first half of the third millennium, has been found - along with many precious artifacts and utensils buried next to the dead - in tombs and underground cavities. In addition, recipients with monochromatic and less abundant decorations have been found - not without similarities with objects emerging in central Iran, in Kerman and in Baluchistan - with drawings inspired by the animal world.



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