The arts of Persia (now Iran) from the
6 th century BC. Subject to invasions from both east and west,
Persia has over the centuries blended many influences to create
a rich diversity of arts, styles, and techniques. Persian art
is particularly noted for its architecture and production of
exquisite miniatures, although perhaps best known today for ornate
carpets. Although the wide diversity of outside influences make
it difficult to pin down distinct characteristics, Persian art
is generally characterized by its firm lines, extensive detail,
and bold use of colour.
Although Persia has been a centre of civilization for at least
7,000 years, it was during the Achaemenid dynasty (550333
BC), when the first Persian empire was formed, that a unified
style emerged, drawing on a wide range of influences. For example,
the palace at Persepolis, begun by Darius I and completed by
Xerxes, was decorated about 520 BC with relief friezes recalling
Assyrian and Babylonian styles. The period also produced work
in gold and silver, bronze castings, and inlay.
The conquest of Persia by Alexander the
Great in the 4th century BC brought about a blending of Persian
and Hellenistic styles, seen, for example, in the bronzes, pottery,
and jewellery of the Parthians. The Sassanian dynasty
(AD 224642) was the richest period of artistic achievement,
developing to the full a wide range of new and inherited styles
and techniques. The Sassanians introduced silk to Persia; they
produced exquisite jewellery, metalwork in silver, gold, and
bronze, and ceramics; and they decorated their palaces with relief
sculptures and mosaics. The innovative domes and arches they
developed were later to have a profound influence on Islamic
After the Muslim invasion of the 7th century AD, Persia was brought
within the sphere of Islamic styles and techniques, clearly reflected
in the ceramics and ornate calligraphy which developed. During
the Mongol Timurid dynasty (13691506) Chinese influences
were apparent in the development of one of Persia's greatest
artistic achievements, the miniature, which was used to illustrate
books of poetry, history, and romances.
By the 15 th century a distinctively Persian style had evolved,
characterized by firm lines, strong colours, and a lot of detail;
its greatest exponent was Bihzad. The Timurid dynasty also saw
the use of coloured tiles to cover buildings, for example on
the Blue Mosque of Tabriz.
The Safavid dynasty (15021736)
produced miniatures, which now began to show the influence of
Western styles; fine carpets many of the finest Persian
carpets are Safavid; fabrics, particularly silk; and metalwork.
Palaces were decorated with murals. The Safavid dynasty marked
the beginning of Persia's artistic decline, as European influences
From The Hutchinson Family Encyclopedia.
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