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The following study utilizes a 1981 reproduction of a ca.1525, Safavid version of the Persian national epic, the Shahnameh, to investigate the manuscript's numerous illustrations of painted interior design. Initial research focuses on the history of wall painting in Iranian culture from the ancient through the Safavid eras. The following section offers a brief history of the Safavids themselves, as well as an overview of the immediate cultural and artistic influences that combined to create their newly syncretized aesthetic. The body of the research concentrates on an original system of classification allowing each interior motif to be categorized as one of five basic types. Labeled A through E the master types are sub-divided into several lesser categories based on their degrees of separation from the original motif. In an attempt to trace each pattern's stylistic origins, the designs are evaluated in relation to three different media that either predate or are contemporary to the production of the Safavid Shahnameh: similar images from illustrated volumes, the literary accounts of extinct Timurid and Turkman murals and the wall paintings of extant edifices. A notable corollary to this research is the conclusion that a number of the Shahnameh's interior wall paintings exhibit far eastern, aesthetic influences that pre-date the Mongolian invasions of the thirteenth century. While it is difficult to classify each of the myriad layers of meaning projected on these images, quite a few of the motifs appear to contain Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi religious symbolism as well as Soghdian and Sassanian secular references. In particular it is proposed that, in many cases, the Shahnameh's illustrations are a reliable indication of the interior wall paintings that decorated contemporaneous Turkman and Timurid palaces.
Safavids, Persian painting, miniature painting, Shah Isma'il, Shah Tahmasp, Shahnama, Shahnameh
Date of Defense
August 19, 2004.
A Thesis submitted to the Program in Asian Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Art.
Includes bibliographical references.
Peter Garretson, Professor Directing Thesis; Jonathan Grant, Committee Member; Susan Lee, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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