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- Art History
Of the three oldest Asian civilizations that are alive - China, Iran, and India - Iran has had the longest continuous history under its own name. During the 11th century, there was wide influence of Islamic control over Iran and Iraq. It has been so since about the second century B.C., and in earlier forms, long before.The great Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan created an Asian empire, the largest among all empires not just in Asia but in the world! His predecessor, and grandson, Hulagu ruled the dynasty between 1256 to 1353 that covered Iran and western Asia. The vastness of the kingdom that covers many regions of Asia brought about the blending and exchange of cultures within different people (Museum of the Islamic Art “The Journey of Islamic Art”).
China for example had a strong influence in Iranian Art as seen on ceramic wares and other Iranian Art form using the lotus flower, phoenix and dragon as motif. China also impacted Iranian pottery through glaze work predominantly the blue and white floral art decoration which was prevalent in ancient China. Moreover, the economic stability brought by a unified empire paved the way for the development of elaborate artistic expression. Artisan and craftsman started to specialize on these artistic wares (Ibid).
Commerce played a special role in further enhancing and influencing Iranian art through trade. The Samanids in the East, Fatimids in Egypt and Umayyads in Spain reflects an incorporated artistic sense that cover the vastness of Islamic influence. It was the interaction with Egyptians, Syrians, Mesopotamians that made an impact among Iranians; cenotaph making was adapted by local artisans and transformed it with their own interpretation as seen on the shape, size, quality, and detailed representation. One way at looking at the transformation was exemplified by the use of the ceramic as medium in creating and crafting unique cenotaph (Ibid).
Frits ware or making pottery and tiles are the basic use for ceramics. But with artistic renaissance and the demand for luxurious wares in Iran reached its peak, Simple pottery will simply not do. Iranian artisans started transforming pottery into works of art. Ceramic became a medium of artistic expression and became popular to the wealthy Iranians. The love affair for beautifully crafted things turned into innovation and the use of ceramic for other crafts (Ibid).
But what generally influenced Iran art in general is Islam. The Mamluk’s enthusiasm in Art flourished around creation of elaborate and elegant mosque lamps, candlesticks, brass basins, in such a way that the detail of the artistic form exudes hierarchy and status. Mamluk’s art also influenced ceramics in a way that it became a medium for elegant calligraphy. The dedication in writing down the Qur’an in all its fine details and accuracy traverse to calligraphy in ceramics made in exquisite form (Jarudi 2000 “Ottoman Calligraphy at the Sackler Museum”& Museum of the Islamic Art “The Journey of Islamic Art”).
Though cenotaph making originated outside Iran, the adaption of the art form was transformed into something that becomes uniquely Iranian. Like the way Italian transformed the Chinese’ noodles and made it their own via transforming it to pasta and using it within the context of their culture, so was cenotaph making transformed and made part into Iranian culture as if it was their own invention.
Ornate (The Independent “48 Hours in: Doha”), a ceramic cenotaph from central Asia is displayed at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. It is a fine example of the very detailed ceramic artwork that resembles the elaborate detail of frits ware and tiles of Iran. The geometric pattern and the elaborate calligraphy from all angles will make everyone assume that this cenotaph is heavily, and for sure belongs to an ancient Islamic civilization. Moreover China’s influence on the cenotaph through the blue and white color of the pattern, again characterized Iran’s ceramic artistry. The arches and the structure of the Ornate itself resembles somewhat of the basic structures of a Mosque. The rectangular base on top of another structure and then domed ceiling bear some resemblance that is strikingly like that of the Mosque.