Dr. Gesink's Image Gallery Page 8


Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque (Isfahan Web Site).  The Safavid Shah 'Abbas built this extraordinary mosque in 1602, and it served as the Friday mosque for the Safavids until the Masjid-i-Imam (below) was finished. The dome is slightly off-center in order to allow the mihrab, or prayer niche, to be oriented towards Mecca. The facade, which opens onto a public square, was about 45 degrees off that alignment.  Note the fine use of cuerda seca tile work on the dome and facade.
Cuerda seca refers to the dry cords used to outline patterns on individual tiles and prevent applied glazes from overlapping.   More on cuerda seca tile design.
Masjid-i-Imam, Isfahan (Aga Khan MIT Visual Archives). Built by Shah 'Abbas between 1611 and 1630. 
Detail of Shah 'Abbas Mosque (Aga Khan MIT Visual Archives).  Another  characteristic feature of Safavid architecture was the use of brightly colored mosaics made of single-color painted tiles for decoration of external and internal surfaces.  The principle colors used were blue, yellow, turquoise, pink, dark purple, green, and white - seven colors or "haft rang," as this style is known in Persian.  Red paint for ceramics was hard to produce (see Ottoman page), and rose and brown pigments did not come into common use until the Qajar period (1779-1924).  In the 17th century, cuerda seca tile painting was used more than tile mosaic because it allowed speedier construction of designs - mosaic design was a lengthy process requiring planning, shaping, and fitting of tiny pieces of tile.

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Copyright 1999 Indira Falk Gesink
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