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Gereh-Sazi

part 2

gereh

ii. ARCHITECTURE

The term gereh-sazi refers to a form of geometric interlaced strapwork ornament that is commonly found in architecture and the minor arts throughout the Islamic world. In Persian Islamic architecture gereh-sazI designs exist in a variety of media, particularly cut brickwork (bannai), stucco, and cut tilework (mosaic faïence).

Perhaps the oldest reference in Persian to gereh as a mode of architectural decoration appears in Mir Sayyed Ahmad’s introduction to the AmIr Gayb Beg Album, written in 972/1564-65 (tr. in Thackston, pp. 355-56). The term gereh-sazI (like the similar terms kar-bandi and rasmi-bandi) appears in the vocabulary of 19th to 20th-century Persian craftsmen working in both architectural decoration and woodwork (Wulff, p. 87; Neçipoglu, p. 22). Several scrolls containing drawings of bannai, gereh-sazi, and moqarnas designs date from the late 15th to the early 20th century. In addition, it seems likely that books of practical geometry were employed when laying out these designs. Important examples of this type of text are the Ketab fI ma yaá¸taj elayh al-sane men amal al-handasa of Abu’l-Wafa Buzjani (d. 388/998, q.v.) and the anonymous FI tadaḵol al-ashkal al-motashabehat aw al-motawafeqa from the 11th-13th century (Neçipoglu, pp. 167-75).

Gereh-sazI takes the form of symmetrical geometric shapes, particularly six-, eight-, ten- or twelve-pointed star polygons combined with a range of convex polygons, and separated from one another by straps which often are given the appearance of ”weaving” under and over one another. Gereh-sazI is usually composed entirely with straight lines and angles although curvilinear elements are sometimes encountered. Like other modes of gereh, these strapwork compositions possess the potential for endless vertical and horizontal repetition over a two- or three-dimensional surface. This capacity for continual expansion is governed by strict adherence to an underlying geometric grid. The key to most gereh-sazi designs is the employment of two-, three-, four-, or six-fold rotational symmetry around a set of regularly-spaced points (Lee, p. 183).

Sasanian architectural ornament includes repeated geometric and vegetal designs (Survey of Persian Art I, pp. 601-30, IV, pls. 171-72), but none of the surviving examples anticipate the structural complexity of gereh-sazI. The antecedents for the sophisticated interlace patterns developed in the Islamic world may be sought in the architecture of Roman-Byzantine Syria (cf. Creswell, I, figs. 110-17, 119-26, 128). Examples of curvilinear interlaced strapwork with three-fold rotational symmetry are found in the Omayyad period in window grilles of the Damascus Great Mosque and the palace of erbat al-Mafjar (Creswell, I, pp. 202-4, figs. 118, 127, 610), but no comparable examples are attested in Persia dating to this phase. Of more direct relevance to the evolution of gereh-sazI in Persian architecture are the geometric interlace patterns on Central Asian brick buildings such as the mausoleum of Arab Aá¹­aʾ at TIm (367/977-78; Neçipoglu, fig. 88) and the mausoleum of Najir at Uzgand (ca. 403/1012-13; Cohn-Wiener, p. 35, pl. IX). In the 10th century rectilinear geometric patterns are attested in the remaining portal of the JurjIr Mosque in Isfahan (built by the Buyid vizier Ebn Abbad and rebuilt in 1663 by Mohammad-Dawud Hakim, hence Masjed-e hakim; Mafarrua; Honarfar, Isfahan, pp. 40-43, 612-13) and the carved stucco of the columns in front of the mehrab in the Masjed-e Jame in Nain (ca. 350/960; Flury, pls. 1, 2) contains an example of simple knotted strapwork, but fully-developed gereh-sazI does not appear in Persia before the 11th century. It seems likely that Baghdad was the source for this new style along with other new types of structural ornament such as the moqarnas dome (cf. Neçipoglu, pp. 99-101). Early Persian examples of gereh-sazI panels are attested at the two mausolea of Karaqan (460-86/1067-93) southwest of QazvIn (Varjavand, pp. 315-49, pls. 151, 169), at the caravansary of Rebae MahI in Khorasan (early 12th cent.; Kleiss and Kiani, p. 96; PLATE II), and Gonbad-e Sorḵ near Maraḡa (542/1148; Mashkur, pp. 390-92, pl. 26). A carved stucco panel with geometric interlace patterns was also discovered in an excavated house at SIraf, which appears to have been abandoned before about 1050 (Whitehouse, p. 14, fig. XIa). Other carved stucco panels with gereh-sazI designs dating to the 11th or early 12th century have been excavated at Termea¸ (Rogers, fig. 2), NIshapur (Wilkinson, figs 1.84, 1.150, 3.42), and the madrasa at Rey (unpublished; Islamic Arts Museum, Tehran, no. 3267).

Gereh-sazi remains an important part of the repertoire of architectural decoration during the Il-Khanid period. The mausoleum of Öljeitü in Sol­taniya (705-13/1305-13) contains numerous examples of complex strapwork designs in both bannai and polychrome carved stucco. The stucco mehrab made for the Emamzada Rabia khatun in Ashtarjan near Isfahan (708/1308; Wilber, pl. 68) illustrates the way in which panels of gereh-sazI are often integrated with other styles of ornament. In many buildings and renovations of the 14th century gereh-sazI represents only a marginal aspect of the whole decorative scheme (PLATE III). This tendency was further accentuated during the Timurid period as elaborate vegetal compositions in cut tile and stucco became the ubiquitous mode of ornament. Fine examples of cut tile strapwork designs of this period are attested at the Gowhar-shad Mosque in Mashhad (821/1418; Golombek and Wilber, pls. 230, 234), the Giatiya Madrasa at argerd (846-48/1442-46; O’Kane, 1987, pls. 22.9-10), as well as a series of 15th- and 16th-century menbars (cf. O’Kane, 1986). In the architecture of Safavid, Qajar, and modern Persia, gereh-sazI continues as a minor element of the decorative vocabulary (PLATE IV), although vegetal and figural motifs predominate. Geometric strapwork remains a more significant decorative form, however, in the post-Timurid monuments in Central Asia.

Source: iranica.com


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