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Bookmaking in Iran (Part 2)


Timurid Period

Cloud collar motifs depicted on books are attributed to this period. Sealing different patterns gained popularity among the bookmakers of Shiraz.

Since the early years of the 14th century, many of the artistic media and handicrafts were gradually influenced by Chinese themes, as a result of the import of textiles and other trade items from the east.

Artists developed the Mongolian (Ilkhanid) binding style by adding Chinese-like decorative styles and mixing motifs to inspire more colorful decorations.

This transitional style was begun by Baghdad’s governor and became well known as the Jalayery style.

Later, a very imitative style was used by artists in Yazd. They developed it by working out a thoroughly balanced design and sealing a design depicting animals.

Subsequently, artists from Tabriz and Herat worked together and succeeded in giving a second life to traditional arabesque decorations by making them more distinguished and refined.

Ultimately, Simorgh was used as a pattern on book covers of Timurid period.

Safavid and Qajar Periods

The Safavid period witnessed a new style using scenes patterned by large stamps. The motifs were extremely tiny and details were painted afterward. Frames were often treated by Marquetry and gilt surrounded the whole design.

During this period, covers, flaps and doublers were decorated by plenty of colorful decorations as a general tendency.

Tiny gilded papers containing floral designs were mostly fixed on blue, red, green, orange and black background to function as filigree-like decorations.

In royal manuscripts illuminated in Tabriz, the unmistakable influence of Herat style is clearly recognized. But, little space was usually left undone because of the exaggeration in decorations.

Using varnish and some kinds of resins for lacquer painting was maintained by the artists of Safavid period in Tabriz. Generally, the background was painted black and the patterns gold, red and green.

Since the 18th century, the illuminated designs started to lose their vividness. Although the neat precision could not be denied, the abundance of details cast a shadow on main motifs.

European Influence

Toward the end of the 18th century, the European influence could be noticed within the motifs, like acanthus-leaf decoration derived from Corinthian style in ancient Greek architecture.

It had then been revived in the capitals of the columns and plasterworks all over Europe.

The most fruitful contacts with European styles began with Zand Dynasty and were extended up to Qajar period. It ended in the under lacquer-painted war scenes and court scenes all compiled with realistic style.

However, Chinese-like patterns were not totally forgotten by artists. Lacquer-painted covers were made for the common people by creating colorful flowers derived from European styles on colored backgrounds.

Bookmaking, in the 20th century, was replaced by the printing industry, though some artists have kept this traditional art alive in Iran.

Source: Iran Daily

Other links:

The Iranian Language Family: Middle Iranian Languages (part 1)

The Iranian Language Family: Middle Iranian Languages (part 2)

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