Ilkhanid ceramic

Most of the greatest works of Mongol art were produced by the Ilkanids According to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: “By the mid-thirteenth century the Islamic lands beyond the Oxus River, which Genghis Khan’s forces had subdued earlier in the century, had slipped from Mongol control. Accordingly, the Great Khan (Genghis’s grandson) sent his brother Hülegü to consolidate and regain control of western Asia. Between 1256 and 1260 Hülegü conquered an immense territory including western Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus, and eastern Anatolia, which he now ruled on behalf of the Great Khan, assuming the title Il-Khan—meaning subordinate or lesser Khan.[Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

The Ilkhanid empire was one of three vast principalities nominally under the authority of the Great Khan, who ruled first from Mongolia and, later, China. Of the three, which also included the Golden Horde in southern Russia and the Chaghatay in central Asia, the Ilkhanids maintained the closest ties to China. However, after the death of Kublai Khan in 1294, the formal relationship between the Ilkhanids and the Great Khan or Yuan emperor was less strictly observed. The Ilkhanids’ adoption of Islam as their official state religion in 1295 must also have created a religious gulf with their Mongol cousins in China who had embraced Buddhism.^\^

“Even as the formal alliance between Iran and China lessened, cultural exchange flourished as luxury wares and artists traveled freely across the empire—a process that energized Iranian art with novel forms, meanings, and motifs that were further disseminated throughout the Islamic world. With the Ilkhanids’ conversion to Islam and acculturation to Persian customs and traditions came a remarkable patronage of arts and letters, encompassing written histories, sumptuously illustrated manuscripts, and brilliantly decorated architectural monuments.” ^|^

Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: ““After their rapid gain of power in the Muslim world, the Mongol Ilkhanids nominally reported to the Great Khan of the Yuan dynasty in China, and in the process imported Chinese models to better define their tastes.However, the new rulers were greatly impressed by the long-established traditions of Iran, with its prosperous urban centers and thriving economy, and they quickly assimilated the local culture.The Mongol influence on Iranian and Islamic culture gave birth to an extraordinary period in Islamic art that combined well-established traditions with the new visual language transmitted from eastern Asia.” [Source: Department of Education,The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Based on original work by Linda Komaroff \^/]

“After Ghazan's conversion, an aggressive program of construction and decoration of mosques was undertaken, while tolerance toward Shici Islam and Sufism promoted the building of tombs and shrines (12.44) devoted to Sufi saints. The best Iranian craftsmen produced mosque furniture and furnishings (10.218; 09.87; 1983.345). Large-scale luxurious Qur'an manuscripts (55.44) were commissioned for religious institutions. Ilkhanid manuscript illustrations provide rare examples of representations of the prophet Muhammad and his companions, probably influenced by the circulation of Christian, especially Armenian, illustrated gospels and by the eclectic approach to religion in Iran at the time. \^/

Websites and Resources: Mongols and Horsemen of the Steppe:
Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; The Mongol Empire ; The Mongols in World History ; William of Rubruck's Account of the Mongols ; Mongol invasion of Rus (pictures) ; Encyclopædia Britannica article ; Mongol Archives ; “The Horse, the Wheel and Language, How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World", David W Anthony, 2007 ; The Scythians - Silk Road Foundation ; Scythians ; Encyclopaedia Britannica article on the Huns ; Wikipedia article on Eurasian nomads Wikipedia ; Islamic Art and Architecture: Islamic Arts & Architecture / ; British Museum Islamic Art Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Islamic Art Louvre Louvre ; Museum without Frontiers ; Islamic Images ; Victoria & Albert Museum ; Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar ;

Books: Amitai-Preiss, Reuven, and David O. Morgan, eds. The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy. Leiden: Brill, 1999; Carboni, Stefano, and Komaroff, Linda, eds. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353. Exhibition catalogue.. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002; Rossabi, Morris "Genghis Khan." In The Encyclopedia of Asian History, vol. 1, pp. 496–98.. New York: Scribner, 1988; Grube, Ernst J. Persian Painting in the Fourteenth Century: A Research Report. Naples: Istituto Orientale di Napoli, 1978; Hillenbrand, Robert, ed. Persian Painting from the Mongols to the Qajars: Studies in Honour of Basil W. Robinson. London: I. B. Tauris, 2000; Raby, Julian, and Teresa Fitzherbert, eds. The Court of the Il-Khans, 1290–1340. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996; Safadi, Yasin Hamid. Islamic Calligraphy. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987; Soudavar, Abolala. Art of the Persian Courts: Selections from the Art and History Trust Collection. New York: Rizzoli, 1992; Wilber, Donald N. The Architecture of Islamic Iran: The Il Khanid Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955.

Art and Architecture of the Ilkhanid Period (1256–1353)

cup with a phoenix

Arguably, the most impressive art produced by the Mongols was made by the Ilkhanids in Iran. Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: The Mongol rulers in Iran “were greatly impressed by the long-established traditions of Iran, with its prosperous urban centers and thriving economy, and they quickly assimilated the local culture.The Mongol influence on Iranian and Islamic culture gave birth to an extraordinary period in Islamic art that combined well-established traditions with the new visual language transmitted from eastern Asia Following the conversion to Islam of the Il-Khan Ghazan (r. 1295–1304) in 1295 and the establishment of his active cultural policy in support of his new religion, Islamic art flourished once again. East Asian elements absorbed into the existing Perso-Islamic repertoire created a new artistic vocabulary, one that was emulated from Anatolia to India, profoundly affecting artistic production. [Source: Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee, Department of Islamic Art, Based on original work by Linda Komaroff \^/]

“During the Ilkhanid period, the decorative arts—textiles, pottery, metalwork, jewelry, and manuscript illumination and illustration—continued along and further developed established lines. The arts of the book, however, including illuminated and illustrated manuscripts of religious and secular texts, became a major focus of artistic production. Baghdad became an important center once again. In illustration, new ideas and motifs were introduced into the repertoire of the Muslim artist, including an altered and more Chinese depiction of pictorial space, as well as motifs such as lotuses and peonies, cloud bands, and dragons and phoenixes. Popular subjects, also sponsored by the court, included well-known stories such as the Shahnama (Book of Kings), the famous Persian epic. Furthermore, the widespread use of paper and textiles also enabled new designs to be readily transferred from one medium to another. \^/

Barda in Azerbaijan

“Along with their renown in the arts, the Ilkhanids were also great builders. The lavishly decorated Ilkhanid summer palace at Takht-i Sulayman (ca. 1275), a site with pre-Islamic Iranian resonances, is an important example of secular architecture. The outstanding Tomb of Uljaytu (built 1307–13; r. 1304–16) in Sultaniyya, however, is the architectural masterpiece of the period. Following their conversion to Islam, the Ilkhanids built numerous mosques and Sufi shrines in cities across Iran such as Ardabil, Isfahan, Natanz, Tabriz, Varamin, and Yazd (ca. 1300–1350). After the death of the last Ilkhanid ruler of the united dynasty in 1335, the empire disintegrated and a number of local dynasties came to power in Iraq and Iran, each emulating the style set by the Ilkhanids. \^/

Islam and Ilkhanid- Mongol Art

According to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: “The Mongols were practitioners of shamanism, in which a shaman mediates between humans and the spirit world. As they transformed from nomadic warriors to leaders of a great empire they came into close contact with other religions and systems of beliefs among the diverse peoples whom they now ruled, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity (mainly Eastern sects), and Islam. Initially the Ilkhanids, the Mongol rulers of Iran, seem to have continued in their ancestral shamanistic practices while maintaining an open attitude toward other religions. [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

“In 1295, however, Islam became the official state religion under the Ilkhan Ghazan (reigned 1295–1304). While most people in Iran at this time were Sunni Muslims, the Shi‘ite branch of Islam (whose adherents recognize ‘Ali and his descendants as the rightful successors to the Prophet Muhammad) held sway in some regions. At least one Ilkhanid ruler—Ghazan’s brother and successor Öljeitü (reigned 1304–16)—converted to Shi‘ism. Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, also obtained significant popularity; Sufis, in fact, had first led the Ilkhanids toward Islam, and several Sufi orders acquired substantial influence and wealth in this period. As in other Islamic lands, the construction of mosques and other religious buildings (including their decoration, furnishings, and accouterments), was the responsibility of the ruler and the prerogative of high court officials.” ^\^

Visual Language in Ilkhanid-Mongol Art

Ilkanid tiles

According to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: “While numerous artists and a great variety of artworks passed freely between eastern and western Asia, textiles seem to have played an especially pivotal role in generating a decidedly significant, innovative aesthetic in Ilkhanid Iran. Given the importance of luxury textiles to the Mongols and their evident presence in Iran, it is not surprising that textile designs and motifs—such as dragons, phoenixes, peonies, lotuses, and the use of landscape—are mirrored in so many aspects of Ilkhanid art and architectural decoration. Tiles, pottery, metalwork, and the arts of the book all reflect to varying degrees the impact of textile art. [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

“If textiles did have an important part in the formulation of a new visual language in Iran, perhaps textile artists and their techniques may have also played a role in the dissemination of this language. Namely, the ascendancy of this medium may have quite literally brought with it a paper trail. Cartoons, drawings, or some form of graphic instructions almost certainly would have been necessary to produce the complex textiles preferred by the Mongols. Perhaps not coincidentally, it seems likely that drawings first became an important tool for the transmission and copying of compositions in Iran during the Ilkhanid period. It is possible that the emergence of drawings may have been initially connected with the new importance of textiles and their specific method of manufacture, which relied upon designs on paper.” ^\^

Clearly Mongol themes also appeared. Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Mongol Archer on Horseback, Signed (lower right) Muhammad ibn Mahmudshah al-Khayyam, Iran, early 15th century, Ink and gold on paper: “Although this drawing postdates the period of Ilkhanid rule and instead belongs to the Timurid dynasty (1370-1507) its subject is not a contemporary one. For example, the rider's costume (including his distinctive owl-feathered headdress) was no longer in fashion at the Timurid court, although the imagery must have appealed to a Timurid audience given the dynasty's claims to Mongol ancestry. The artist, Muhammad ibn Mahmudshah al-Khayyam, probably based his composition on an Ilkhanid work perhaps preserved in an album. These albums, which were first assembled in Iran in the fifteenth century, contained paintings, calligraphy, sketches, designs, and stencils for transferring designs that served as models and source materials for later generations of artists. This piece belongs to the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Orientabteilung.

Examples of Ilkhanid- Mongol Islamic Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Candlestick, Iran, A.D. 1308–9, Bronze, inlaid with silver: The practice of endowing religious monuments with lighting devices was viewed as a meritorious act in Iran even before the advent of Islam. A highly placed minister of Sultan Öljeitü gave this exceptionally large candlestick to the tomb of a revered Sufi saint, Abu Yazid al-Bastami. It represents the growing acceptance and legitimization of Sufi, or mystical orders, in Ilkhanid society. Made of brass inlaid with silver, it is decorated with floral designs and cartouches. The base bears an inscription inlaid in silver with the name of the donor, Karim al-Din al-Shugani. The inscription notes that the candlestick was given to the mausoleum at Bastam, “in the year seven hundred and eight of the hijra,” or A.D. 1308–9. This piece belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Qur’an Stand, Hasan ibn Sulaiman al-Isfahani, Iran or Central Asia, October–November 1360, Wood, carved and inlaid: The Qur’an stand, or rahla, was a common furnishing in mosques and other places of worship. This example, with its richly carved calligraphy and lush foliate designs, bears the signature of its maker as well as its date of manufacture and the name of the patron who commissioned it for a madrasa, or theological college. The graceful inscription above the cypress tree calls for blessings upon the prophet and the Twelve Imams, the latter suggesting that the Qur’an stand was commissioned for a Shi‘ite school. The upper sections of the stand are decorated with the word “Allah” repeated four times so that the initial letters alif interlock to create an X-shaped design; this is set against a deeply carved arabesque ground. This piece belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ^\^

There are also beautiful manuscript pages from Korans. Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Folios from Öljeitü’s, Mosul Qur’an, Copied by ibn Zayd al-Husaini ‘Ali ibn Muhammad, Iraq (Mosul), 1306–11, Ink and colors on paper, 5 lines of muhaqqaq script to the page: “Originally commissioned in Mosul [Iraq] and known as Öljeitü’s Mosul Qur’an, this spectacular, large format thirty-part manuscript, now dispersed, was intended for the sultan’s mausoleum in Sultaniyya. The superb gold muhaqqaq calligraphy with black outlines demonstrates that Zayd al-Husaini (who is otherwise unknown as a scribe) was an outstanding master of this style. He probably stopped halfway to execute the illuminations, and it took about six years, therefore, for the manuscript to be completed. ^\^

Other Islamic objects include: 1) a mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque), Iran, Kashan, early 14th century, Fritware, molded, overglaze luster-painted with touches of cobalt blue; 2) image of a tent mosque, Iran, early 14th century, Ink and colors on paper.

Ilkhanid Book Art

folio from Shahnama

According to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Perhaps the most profound impact of the Mongol invasions on the arts of Iran was the new role of manuscript illustration, which became a significant and influential forum for courtly patronage. Beginning in the early fourteenth century, the main focus of Ilkhanid patronage was historical works and epic poems. Histories were written expressly for the dynasty, whose achievements they glorified, as in the Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles). Epics represent the continuation of an existing genre, exemplified by the Shahnama (Book of Kings), which tells of the pre-Islamic kings and heroes of Iran. [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

“Early fourteenth-century versions of the Shahnama were copied and illustrated in Tabriz, the Ilkhanid capital, as well as Baghdad and Shiraz (in southern Iran). A specific style of painting is associated with each of these centers for manuscript production, yet all early fourteenth-century Shahnama illustrations share certain basic features. Although the text of the Shahnama is set in a mythic past, the figures in all of these paintings are almost invariably clothed in the style of the day, and their facial features and hairstyles are those of the Mongols. Likewise, representations of architecture, furnishings, arms and armor, and other accouterments always reflect contemporary life. ^\^

“Yet these paintings were not intended as realistic or necessarily accurate depictions of court life; they are book illustrations first and foremost, meant to be understood within the context of the accompanying text. In fact, they portray an idealized world with fantastically colored landscapes and where kings, heroes, and courtly figures are depicted as idealized types reflecting the ethnicity of the ruling elite—thus recasting ancient Iranian kings as contemporary Mongol sovereigns. ^\^

“This identification between contemporary rulers and ancient kings was both deliberate and significant. It is generally accepted that the Ilkhanids and their successors made use of the arts of the book to further their own political agendas, using manuscript illustration to justify and legitimize the ruling elite. In initiating a tradition of Persian illustrated manuscript production, the Ilkhanids also instituted a tradition of politically motivated patronage of this medium, which helped ensure its cultural and aesthetic importance for some three hundred years.” ^\^

Art of the Book in the Ilkhanid Period

Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “The arts of the book in the Ilkhanid period reached unparalleled levels, not only in quantity but also in quality. The new rulers gave impetus to book production after they settled in their capitals of Maragha, Tabriz, and Baghdad and developed an interest in historical writings as a means to further their claim to rule over a foreign land. Not surprisingly, they chose the Shahnama (Book of Kings) as a sort of official dynastic history in which the Ilkhanids identified themselves with kings and heroes of the Iranian past. [Source:Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/]

page from the Great Mongol Shahnama

“The Mongols' attitude toward the power of the word and the image, however, is not sufficient to explain the unprecedented use of high-quality paper, the richness of illumination, the refinement of calligraphy, and the blossoming of illustration that Iran and Iraq witnessed during the Ilkhanid period (34.24.1; 34.24.3). The Mongols clearly brought with them an excitement about the art of painting. Local artists readily absorbed the new artistic influences from China, transmitted through scrolls (1989.363.5) and drawings, and integrated them into the type of painting with which they were most familiar, book illustration. At the end of the thirteenth century, the early integration of foreign elements was awkward (Tarikh-i jahan-gusha, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris). Within two decades, however, artists had created a new eclectic style that reached a high point with two masterpieces of Ilkhanid painting: Rashid al-Din's Jamic al-tavarikh and the Great Mongol Shahnama (33.70; 52.20.2).\^/

“The dynamic, almost dramatic phase of Ilkhanid painting would slowly be replaced during the waning years of the dynasty with a new, understated, and more refined style that provided the basis for developments in the following two centuries. Later Persian scholars were so keenly aware of the importance of these changes that they described the Ikhanid period as the time when "the veil was lifted from the face of Persian painting." \^/

“It was in the capitals Tabriz and Baghdad that Ilkhanid art flourished at its highest levels, reaching an apex with the production of the Great Mongol Shahnama. Its dramatic style of painting was replaced by a quiet world that suited the vision of the newly arrived Mongol patrons, the Jalayirids (1340–1411), who were captivated by Persian poetry, in which illustrations of battle scenes and heroic feats became merely symbolic and almost motionless (2008.31). The Jalayirids played an important role in providing a bridge between the Ilkhanids and Timur (Tamerlane), who saw himself and his dynasty, the Timurids (1370–1507), as the rightful successors of the Mongols.

Great Mongol Shahnama (Book of Kings)

Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “The most elaborate and luxurious manuscript of the Ilkhanid period is a fourteenth-century copy (now dispersed) of the Shahnama (Book of Kings), known today as the Great Mongol Shahnama. It exists today in the form of 57 illustrations and several text pages scattered among public and private collections. Extensive study of the manuscript has revealed that the original was probably two volumes of about 280 large folios and 190 illustrations.

another page from the Great Mongol Shahnama

“The frontispiece and the colophon, which might have revealed information about the patron, the calligrapher, and the date and place of production, are lost. Most scholars agree that the manuscript dates to the 1330s and was perhaps commissioned by the vizier Ghiyath al-Din, son of Rashid al-Din of Tabriz. [Source: Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/

“The Shahnama, the poet Firdausi's masterpiece in Persian verse written around 1000, tells the stories of ancient heroes and kings of pre-Islamic Iran; it is rich with exploits of love and betrayal, courage, and valor that lend themselves to illustration. This epic work remained one of the most popular in Iran, and the first-known illustrated copies date to the Ilkhanid period. As no illustrated copies of the Shahnama are known from before the early 1300s, the manuscript might not yet have had an established iconography, leaving the Ilkhanid patron and the best artists at court free to experiment with the choice of pictorial events, styles, and themes. \^/

“The pages of the Great Mongol Shahnama are large in format and most of the space is often entirely painted. The figures possess a monumental quality, and the use of such devices as the extension of trees and battle standards beyond the picture frame and the truncation of human and animal figures imparts a sense of barely contained energy. The frequent depiction of figures seen from behind pulls the viewer into the picture space, enhancing the drama. The innovative Ilkhanid artists combined the traditional style of Persian painting with elements borrowed from other traditions—costumes, rocks, trees, and clouds from Chinese art; compositions from Western painting—to produce a unique and unparalleled visual expression. The Shahnama, with its rich detailing of the largely lost material culture of the Mongol court, presents a view of the contemporary Ilkhanid world, transforming a popular text into a splendid visual document of the period.\^/

“In the early twentieth century, Paris dealer Georges Demotte took the manuscript apart, splitting some folios with illustrations on both sides and selling the resulting two leaves individually. He commissioned new text pages to paste on the backs of the undamaged split leaves; when these were damaged, the salvaged image was pasted onto a newly commissioned folio. As a result, some paintings are unrelated to the accompanying text, while others have incomplete text.” \^/

Books: Carboni, Stefano, and Komaroff, Linda, eds. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353. Exhibition catalogue.. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002; Grabar, Oleg, and Sheila Blair Epic Images and Contemporary History: The Illustrations of the Great Mongol Shahnama. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980; Hillenbrand, Robert, ed. Shahnama: The Visual Language of the Persian Book of Kings. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2004.

Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles)

death of Moses in the Jami‘ al-tavarikh

According to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: “ Ghazan (reigned 1295-1304), the seventh ruler of the Ilkhanid dynasty and the first to convert to Islam, commissioned his vizier, Rashid al-Din (1247-1318), to write the history of the Mongols. During the reign of Ghazan's brother and successor, Öljeitü (reigned 1304-16), this text-known as Jami' al-tavarikh, or Compendium of Chronicles-developed into the earliest account of world history. The pages from the Arabic version here come from the earliest-known copy of this chronicle, completed in 1314-15 and made under the author's supervision. [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

“This manuscript initially comprised four volumes. Only the second half of the second volume survives, narrating the history of the ancient Iranian and Arabian kings, the prophet Muhammad and the caliphs, the Jews, the noncaliphal rulers of Iran and Asia Minor, the Franks, the Indians, and the Chinese. The Edinburgh University Library and Nasser D. Khalili Collection manuscripts make up this section of the second volume.^\^

“The two contain more than 200 folios, with 110 illustrations and 80 portraits of Chinese emperors and their attendants. The paintings draw upon a wide range of sources including pre-Mongol Persian and Arabic texts, Chinese scrolls and woodblock illustrations, Byzantine manuscripts, and Crusader painting in the French Gothic style. Perhaps most significantly, in the illustrations from this section of the Compendium of Chronicles, the non-Mongols are recast with the characteristic features and costumes of Mongols, thereby in a sense uniting all of world history with that of the Mongols. ^\^

Death of Musa (Moses) and Birth of Mohammed in the Jami' al-tavarikh

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Death of Musa (Moses), Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles), Iran (Tabriz), 1314–15, Ink, colors, and gold on paper: “A scene from the Jami' al-tavarikh's history of the Jews, the illustration of Musa's death is, like the other paintings in this manuscript, composed from a pastiche of stylistic and iconographic influences. Moses (Musa) lies upon a rocky bed that represents Mount Nebo in Transjordan, the final resting place of the Old Testament prophet (Deut. 34:1-12). Moses' pose is derived from deathbed scenes in Byzantine manuscripts. The landscape of Mount Nebo, where Moses delivered his final sermon, is rendered as a series of spiky triangulations reminiscent of Chinese landscape paintings. Sequestered in the other half of the composition stands a group of Moses' followers. The figures wear Arab-style robes with tiraz (an embroidered band of writing)., Death of Musa The one who wears a scale pattern robe and points toward the Prophet probably represents Yushua (Joshua), Moses' successor.” [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of The Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles), Iran (Tabriz), 1314–15, Ink, colors, and gold on paper: “The figural representations of the Prophet in this manuscript may have been the result of the Ilkhans’ familiarity with Christianity and Buddhism, which had accustomed them to religious images. Faced with an Islamic painting tradition bereft of illustrations of the prophet Muhammad’s birth, here the artist(s) borrowed from Nativity scenes in Christian manuscripts. The three women on the left replace the three Magi. The Prophet’s grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib, on the right, replaces Joseph. The half-arcades atop the piers recall designs originating in indigenous Iranian architecture. This piece belongs to the Edinburgh University Library.


Courtly Art of the Ilkhanids

Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Members of the Ilkhanid court wore expensive clothes and accessories, whether they were traveling in luxurious tents or settling in one of their palaces for a while. They also surrounded themselves with opulent functional objects, from wine containers to serving trays, storage jars (56.185.3) to food bowls, lighting devices to wash basins. Some of these items may have been part of the traveling effects of the court, but the majority can be regarded as palace furnishings that were commissioned from the finest craftsmen. [Source: Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/]

Little is known about direct sponsorship and court workshops because few extant objects include inscriptions with dedications or signatures. Nevertheless, the elaborate vessels inlaid with silver and gold and the lavish gilded blue-glazed lajvardina ceramics (34.151; 57.61.12a,b) must have been a familiar sight for the ruler and his entourage and for the most affluent people in Ilkhanid Iran and Iraq. Lajvardina (from the Persian lajvard, or lapis lazuli) tiles, painted in white, black, and red enamels and gold over a monochrome dark blue or turquoise glaze, were often used as well. The lajvardina technique seems to have been a specialty of Iranian potters during the Ilkhanid period alone and was abandoned after their rule.

“Inlaid metalwork was highly prized and costly. The gold and silver inlays (91.1.521) that were gently hammered in the indentations carved in the bronze or brass surface have mostly disappeared, but it is still possible to appreciate the technical and artistic skills of the craftsmen who found inspiration in the new visual language brought by the Mongols. The best artists from Mosul in northern Iraq and Shiraz in southern Iran—two famous centers for metalwork—probably moved to the capital, Tabriz, to work for the court. \^/

“Luxury objects, jewelry, and clothing are often depicted in manuscript illustrations from the period, providing evidence of their existence and actual use at the court. The gold necklace (1989.87a-l) and a similar piece of jewelry illustrated in a page of the Great Mongol Shahnama are good examples of the correlation between the arts of the book and the decorative arts.” \^/

Examples of Ilkhanid Court Art

Ilkhanid carpet

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Candlestick, Sa'd ibn 'Abd Allah, Iran (Fars province), 1343-53, Brass, inlaid with silver and gold: “This remarkable candlestick was made for Abu Ishaq (reigned 1343-53), a ruler of the Injuid dynasty that controlled the southern Iranian province of Fars. It is noteworthy not only for its intricate, highly accomplished craftsmanship but also for the large, elaborate enthronement scenes encircling its base. At the base of the socket is a diminutive inscription providing other important information. It reads: "made by the feeble slave Sa'd ibn 'Abd Allah." This piece belongs to the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar. [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

“Encircling the base of this candlestick are four large enthronement scenes enclosed by medallions. Two of the scenes depict the ruler seated on a throne supported by lions and attended by members of his entourage. In one, he wears an elaborate Mongol headdress composed of rounded owl feathers and other, spikier plumage—probably eagle feathers. A third medallion shows a ruler and his consort sharing a platformlike throne. The consort wears the conical headdress reserved for Mongol noblewomen and known as a bughtaq. In the fourth medallion the consort, again wearing the bughtaq, is depicted alone on her throne., Arabic inscriptions set in cartouches on the base are especially significant as they give the name and titles of a member of the Injuid dynasty, Abu Ishaq (r.1343-53), who succeeded his father, Mahmud Shah, as ruler of the Fars.^\^

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Bowl with Four Phoenixes, Iran, 14th century, Fritware, underglaze painted: “This bowl belongs to a general category of Persian ceramics known as Sultanabad ware, after the western Iranian city (between Hamadan and Isfahan) [map] where many similar objects were found, although there is no proof that any of them were actually made there. The phoenix motif, in which the mythical birds are depicted in pairs or groups of three or four (here), typically arranged in the form of a revolving design emphasized the birds’ long, curving tail feathers, may also represent a Chinese import. ^\^

Other courtly object include: 1) a Tapestry Roundel, Iraq or Iran, first half of the 14th century, Tapestry weave, silk, gold thread wrapped around a cotton core; 2) Enthronement Scene, Iran (possibly Tabriz), early 14th century, Ink, colors, and gold on paper. ^\^

Takht–i Sulayman and Tile Work in the Ilkhanid Period

wall tile with a dragon from Takht–i Sulayman

Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Excavations have revealed that the architectural complex of Takht-i Sulayman (ca. 1270), the summer royal palace of the Ilkhanid ruler Abakha (r. 1265–82) located in northwestern Iran, was lavishly decorated with tile revetments that covered both the exterior and interior walls of many of its buildings. Exterior tiles, made to better withstand weather conditions, have a simple monochrome glaze and show a combination of interlocking hexagons and stars. Combinations for the interior walls were mostly based on star- and cross-shaped tiles and hexagonal, double-pentagonal, and star tiles. These geometric panels filled the lower part of the walls and were crowned by a single frieze of large square or rectangular tiles. In some cases, the friezes at Takht-i Sulayman included tiles with inscriptions taken from the Shahnama as well as more generic hunting scenes (10.9.1). The tiles of Takht-i Sulayman were most likely produced in situ, as confirmed by a mold found during excavations. [Source: Stefano Carboni and Qamar Adamjee, Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/]

“The great majority of tiles for the interiors of other Ilkhanid buildings were decorated in the rich luster technique (12.49.4), which made the walls glitter, reflecting the sunlight entering through the windows or the dim glow of oil lamps. Luster painting on tiles had a well-established pre-Mongol tradition in the Iranian city of Kashan. This technique consists of overglaze painting with metallic pigments that, when fired in a reduced-oxygen atmosphere, acquire a lustrous golden or brownish appearance. Panels of star and cross luster-painted tiles covered the walls of many Ilkhanid buildings, mainly in northern Iran. The presence of human figures, animals, and inscriptions quoting Persian poetry suggests that the tiles were employed in leisure palaces and abodes erected for affluent members of the Ilkhanid elite following the example of royal palaces like Takht-i Sulayman.” \^/

Books: Carboni, Stefano, and Komaroff, Linda, eds. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353. Exhibition catalogue.. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002; Masuya, Tomoko "The Ilkhanid Phase of Takht-i Sulaiman." Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1997; Watson, Oliver Persian Lustre Ware. London: Faber and Faber, 1985.

Ilkhanid Star and Cross Tiles

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description of Star and Cross Tiles, Iran (probably Takht-i Sulayman), 1270s, Fritware, overglaze painted (lajvardina): One consequence of the Mongol invasions and subsequent establishment of Ilkhanid rule in Iran was the introduction of Chinese-inspired motifs, such as the dragon and the phoenix. These motifs, which may have been brought westward via imported textiles, quickly became part of the new vocabulary of ornament that was reflected in the tile decoration of the royal residence at Takht-i Sulayman [Source: “The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003 exhibition ^\^]

“Star and cross tiles such as these were produced in molds, which accounts for the repetition and duplication of compositions. The method of manufacture also helps to identify tiles not excavated at Takht-i Sulayman such as this one, but which evidently shared the same molds with tiles uncovered at the site. Star and Cross Tiles, Star tiles bearing a dragon or a phoenix, separated by cross tiles and arranged in alternate clusters of turquoise or cobalt blue, were found in the so-called North Octagon, part of a larger complex of a vaulted hall flanked by two octagonal chambers. ^\^

“Several techniques were used for decorating the tiles at Takht-i Sulayman including the overglaze lajvardina technique seen here. In this technique a monochrome glaze of turquoise (as seen here), cobalt blue, or white was applied and the tile fired. The tile was then decorated with gold leaf, and finally painted with black, white, or red enamel and fired a second time. Such brilliantly glazed and gilt tiles must have dazzled visitors to the palace.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2019

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