Ilkhanid Stucco and Tile Revetment in Iran, c. 1300. Function, Meaning and Aesthetic Principles
The essence of the proposed PhD research project could be summarized in the following research question: What are the Aesthetic Principles, Function and Meaning of Ilkhanid Architectural Revetment? The proposed systematic research of the Ilkhanid (1256-1335) architectural revetment in Iran aims to fill one of the major gaps in Islamic Art and Architecture studies by re-defining our understanding of the Ilkhanid aesthetics of architectural revetment. Although Ilkhanid stucco, tiles and wall-paintings have been acknowledged as important material culture output of one of the key Iranian dynasties, they have not been studied thoroughly. The current understanding is based on examinations of a small number of monuments, which are rarely consistent and lack employment of current more scientific research methodology. This research aims to discuss Ilkhanid architectural revetment aesthetics, function and decorative principles and artistic techniques of stucco and tile revetment, the craftsmen workshops and the stucco’s polychrome aspects. It focuses on the least researched Ilkhanid monuments which are often in danger or a state of deterioration.
The research project examines the structures erected or redecorated during the reigns of Ghazan (1295-1304) and Oljeitu (1304-1316), as the state policies of those two rulers led to major cultural changes and exercised a profound impact on Ilkhanid architectural output, its decorative aesthetics and workshops. The period of their reigns (1295-1316) can be argued to mark the apogee of the Ilkhanid artistic and architectural output. The research in particularly focuses on the following structures: the Pir-e Bakran mausoleum (1312/13), the Haftshuyeh Friday mosque (Seljuk mosque; early 14th century Ilkhanid redecoration), the Ashtarjan Friday mosque (1315/16), the Farfan Friday mosque (1300-1320), Oljeitu’s mihrab (1310) in the old Esfahan Friday mosque, and the Turbat-e Jam complex (1236; 1302-1362) near Mashhad.
The history, patronage, function, architectural structure, restorations, artistic techniques, epigraphic programmes, Ilkhanid redecoration interventions and hypothetical stucco polychromy of these monuments will be researched in their geo-political context. This will allow for a reconsideration of the revetment of well-researched monuments such as the Oljeitu’s mausoleum in Sultaniyya (1309-1313; UNESCO World Heritage site), the Abd al-Samad shrine (1304-1325; Natanz), Takht-e Suleyman palace (1270-1275; UNESCO World Heritage site) and monuments in Gazvin, Varamin, Damghan and Orumiyeh. The research also aims to re-assess the relation between the Seljuk and Ilkhanid architectural decoration. It will provide continuity to the groundwork executed by the Italian Mission (IsMEO) before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The results will allow for a re-consideration of Ilkhanid Art and Architecture reference literature by Donald Wilber (1955), Arthur Upham Pope (1938-39) and Maxime Siroux (1971). Moreover, the concept of Ilkhanid decorative aesthetics as defined by Pope, Grube, Hillenbrand, O’Kane, Golombek and Shani is going to be re-defined.
Comparative studies of stucco inscriptions and decorative imagery will be used to research the stucco production, organization of the workshops and regional characteristics of the revetment. First technical analyses of Ilkhanid stucco revetment will provide information about the stucco production techniques, stucco composition and the composition of colours employed for its colouring. Information about the calligraphers and craftsmen involved in the stucco workshop will be researched via epigraphical studies and primary sources. Digital photography and computer software will also be employed in order to produce hypothetical reconstructions of Ilkhanid stucco polychromy. Studies of tile revetment, its typology, frequency, and their comparison to stucco revetment will allow for the discussion of stucco and tile revetment’s function, its decorative hierarchy and principles. The main source of the research material will consist of field research of Iranian Ilkhanid revetment in Iran and aforementioned technical analyses of stucco revetment. Moreover, existing literature, photographic material and architectural drawings produced prior to the Islamic Revolution (which halted the progress of the research) are also going to be examined.
The documentation and research of monuments in peril of deterioration will be of key importance in fostering their conservation and further research. A new context for the studies of Ilkhanid tile revetment stored in the Western collections will be proposed. These finds will be important for the research of Islamic stucco in other socio-political contexts such as Abbasid Samarra or Nasrid Spain. Use of the computer software and digital photography should exemplify a new approach for the research of Islamic Art and Architecture other than Ilkhanid. Once completed, this project will hopefully lead towards a further research projects aiming at the documentation, research and preservation of other Ilkhanid monuments.