episode #152 crafts of ancient Persia

Photo by Behnam Ramezani on Pexels.com

Persia, historic region of southwestern Asia associated with the area that is now modern Iran. This region was named after the Indo-European nomadic group of individuals who had migrated to that region in 1000 BCE. The term “Persia” was derived from an area of southern Iran that was formerly known as “Persis” or “Parsa”. The region of Persia created an immense empire in the second half of the 6th century BCE that spanned the Indus Valley to Northern Greece, as well as Central Asia to Egypt. 

Persian art was influenced by Sumerian, Greek, Roman and Chinese art. The impact of traditional Chinese characteristics became visible in the creation of Persian miniatures, which existed as small paintings that were done on paper as either a book illustration or an individual work of art. These miniatures were made to be kept in an album of miniature works known as a muraqqa. Today, Persian art miniatures encompass some of the most significant Persia paintings from that period of art history. Furthermore, the surviving Persian art to come from ancient times placed a strong focus on the human figure, as most monuments from this era depicted males who were mostly royalty. Additionally, animals were also considered to be of great importance (for example a dog), as the emphasis was placed on them in these sculptures as well. Persian sculpture alternated between quite stylised and very realistic, with the features of a sculpture depending heavily on the culture of influence. One of the best examples of how the Persians blended all the best of foreign cultures to make something totally Persian is the palace complex at Persepolis. Started by King Darius around 518 B.C. and further ornamented by his son, Xerxes, Persepolis became the centre of power for the Achaemenian rulers of the Persian Empire. 

fter the fall of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BCE to Alexander the Great, Persian art was soon replaced by the Parthian Era. After the death of Alexander the Great, Persian art fell fully under the influence of the Parthians, which helped resume the development of Persian art and architecture. The Parthians initially existed as semi-nomadic people, with the style of the artwork indicating the many different regions that had come into contact with them.

Later on, during the Second Persian Empire, Sasanian art focused on decorative stone mosaics and created dishes typically made out of gold and silver that depicted animals and various hunting scenes. The brilliance of the Sassanians was their ability to fully integrate what had worked in the past into their present efforts and improve upon it. The greatest and best-known example of frontal Sassanian art is the colossal statue of Shapur I which stands 21 feet (6.7 meters), carved from a single stalagmite in the Shapur Cave in Iran. From that time comes also well-known/ iconic carpet-making and silk-weaving. The Persian art has reached its peak under the Sassanians (224-651 CE) whose empire drew upon the vast history of its predecessors to create some of the greatest monuments and works of art of the ancient world.

After the fall of the Sassanid Era, Persia was invaded by Arabs and became part of Islam as a result. Due to this, Persian visual arts developed according to the newer Islamic rules, which meant a shift in the artmaking process. One of these rules banned the depiction of three-dimensional living things, which led to an instantaneous decline in the creation of Persian sculpture.

Despite the production of sculpture diminishing, decorative arts which included metalwork, weaving, and ceramics continued to thrive. This led to artists focusing on ornamentation pieces that were eventually used to adorn Islamic temples such as the Mosque of Baghdad (764 CE), the Great Mosque at Samarra (847 CE), and the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad (1418).

Persian ceramics, rugs, statuary, and textiles continue to be among the most popular in the world, an enduring legacy of one of the greatest of all the ancient civilisations. Some artisans even continuing to work in metals as their ancestors did thousands of years ago and so they preserve and honour the past.


Persian Art

Crafts in ancient Persia

Persian Art

Persian art & architecture


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