Persian studies at UIUC

Tilework:


The earliest evidence of glazed brick is the discovery in the Elamite Temple at Chogha Zanbil, dated to the 13th century BC.


Early Islamic mosaics in Persia consist mainly of geometric decorations in mosques and mausoleums made of glazed brick. Seyed Mosque in Isfahan (1122 AD), Dome of Maraqeh (1147 AD) and the Jame Mosque of Gonabad (1212 AD) are among the finest examples.


The golden age of Persian tile work began during the reign of the Timurid Empire. However, the mosaic was not limited to flat areas. Jame Mosque in Yazd (1324-1365 AD) and Goharshad Mosque (1418 AD) are prominent examples of brick and tile mosaics of interiors and external surfaces of domes.





Mihrabs, being the focus point of mosques, were usually the places where the most sophisticated tile work was placed. The 14th century Mihrab at Masjed-e Imam in Isfahan is an outstanding example of the aesthetic union between the Islamic calligrapher's art and abstract ornament. The pointed arc, framing the mihrab's niche, bears an inscription in Kufic script used in a 9th-century Quran.


One of the best-known architectural masterpieces of Iran is the Shah Mosque in Isfahan from the 17th century. Its dome is a prime example of tile mosaic and its winter praying hall houses one of the finest ensembles of cuerda seca tiles in the world. Wide variety of tiles had to be manufactured in order to cover complex forms of the hall with consistent mosaic patterns. The result was a technological triumph as well as a dazzling display of abstract ornament.