History of Persian Calligraphy
Calligraphy has been considered among the artistic symbols, letters and elements, which form the word, always bear undeniable esthetic qualities. Iranian Calligraphic Styles, such as Taliq, Nastaliq, Naskh, Thulth, Reqa, Towqi, Shekasteh, Kufic and decorative scripts, stands proud as charming among those of every other nation; particularly so, when those are adorned with illumination, which bestows hundred-fold prominence to their sublime forms.
Indeed, Iranian calligraphy truly deserves such illuminations, and such a reverence; its masterpieces, when framed and set upon walls, bear all the attraction of great paintings, affecting even foreigners. Thus many of them are now lovingly collecting items of Iranian Calligraphy.
Iranian Kings and Princes have always been fond of penmanship; Soltan Oveis and Soltan Ahmad Jalayer, Ibrahim Mirza and Baisonqor Gourkani, Shah Tahmasb, Bahram Mirza and his brother, Ibrahim Mirza Safavi, Fath Ali Shah and Abbas Mirza, Mohammad Ali Mirza Dolatshah, as well as many personalities and ministers, and also a number of Qajar Princesses, have all been famous in calligraphers.
Iranian masters in Taliq were:
Khajeh Taj, Abdol Hai, Moinoddin, Darvish Abdollah, Khajeh Ekhtiar and Rouhollah Monshi;
Mir Ali Heravi, Soltan Ali, Mir Mohammad Baqer, Soltan Mohammd Nour, Soltan Mohammad Khandan, Mohammad Abrishami, Mir Jan, Mohammad ebneh Eshaq, Khajeh Ibrahim, Mohammad Qasem Shadi Shah, Abdi, Shah Mahmoud, Moezeddin Mohammad, Mir Seyed Ahmad, Malek Deilami, Mohammad Hossein Tabrizi, Mohammad Zaman, Mir Emad, Shah Mohammad, Baba Shah Mohammad Reza Tabrizi, Alireza Abbasi and Mohammad Saleh;
And in Shekasteh:
Morteza Qoli Soltan, Shafia, Mirza Hassan Kermani, Darvish Abdolmajid, Mirza Kouchak, Mirza Abdolqasem and Motamedoldoleh Neshat, alongside hundreds of other illustrious names of past calligraphers.
Evolution of various styles of penmanship, esthetic changes and developments of Iranian calligraphy, assess essential esthetic variations, evaluate the degrees of evolution attained and discover the brilliant agility of Iranian Artist’s mind within the context of history, show that, although certain decays be more or less conspicuous in the course of history of calligraphy, this very beauty has kept it from annihilation.
Mind of the average Iranian spectator is basically familiar with calligraphy, so that, even though he (she) may not be a calligrapher Himself (herself), nevertheless has a close recollection of tradition of penmanship. This “recollection”, which bears extensive influence from the works of the immediately preceding generation, generally corresponds with the latest basics evolved by the present one, and thus has a relatively clear-cut opinion about calligraphic esthetics. Therefore, it is not so strange that this “recollection” may not deem a panel penned by Mir Ali Heravi (16th century A.D.). Obviously, such a judgment is an unjust one; rather, to be fair, one should recognize and evaluate highs and lows of calligraphic styles by the criteria prevalent in their own time.
In this respect, Iranian calligraphy has followed a path similar to that of Iranian painting. Thanks to innovations achieved by creative minds of Iranian artists, various manners and schools have left such distinct influences, that in most cases it seems quite easy and safe to single out a work executed in conformity with Iranian Artist’s ideal of beauty.
In both calligraphy and artistry, acquired foreign elements were properly and entirely modified in accordance with Iranian taste, and combined with all the innate elements, traditions and memories of this nation. All this was achieved at once, but rather slowly, with discipline, from father to son and from hand to hand.
In calligraphy, Iranian artist made truly immense contribution by innovating Nastaliq script and the latest step of evolution was taken when created Shekasteh Nastaliq. Similarly in painting, at the same time, when Nastaliq script was being born, artistic originality of Iranian painting achieved utmost brilliancy and in the same time of Shafia Heravi, while Shekasteh Nastaliq was reaching its ideal configuration, followers of the school of Reza Abbasi and Aqa Reza were busy perfecting sublime curves of their compositions.
Natural evolution of both arts continues until the early 20th century A.D. Esthetic regulations were set, each complementing previous ones. Yet, in contemporary period, a totally different event takes place; Iranian painters and calligraphers suddenly free themselves from the natural course of progressive artistic evolution. Rejecting every boundary, they turn back to past styles and manners.
Iranian painters take to considering past artistic schools as national elements and according to their taste and need, start drawing upon them, in part or entirely. Iranian calligraphers also adopt the same attitude. Many great masters, instead of continuing the trends, set by their immediate predecessors, such as Emadolkotab, focus their attention on older manners, sometimes even reverting to examples set by Mir Emad Hassani, Abdolrashid Deilami and Assadollah Shirazi.
This trend of turning back to the manners of ancient masters had also existed in the past, as “Mirza Reza Kalhor” exercised considerably following examples of Mir Emad, but more in order to learn about the intricacies, refinements, technical and artistic innovations of notorious styles than to revert to the past and to revive its esthetic principles.