Here is the whole team responsible for restoring themuqarnas (behind them). The ustad (master craftsman, at left) told me that, unusually, he expected the two younger apprentices to continue working with him – more often now, young men do not stick to low paid and arduous craft jobs. [C.M.4]


The ustad (master craftsman) shown here part the way up inside the high dome at Sarakhs, is standing in front of some partially-restored (and fairly basic) muqarnas. [C.M.3]


This is the Shaykh Luqman Mausoleum in Sarakhs, on the Turkmenistan-Iran border. It was built in 1356, and is now being restored. Getting access to themuqarnas (stalactite vaulting) right up in the top of the dome involved squeezing up between the double shelled walls of the lower part of the building; then an exposed and hair-raising …

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Muqarnas, sometimes called ‘stalactite vaulting’, are a three-dimensional form of architectural decoration of domes, niches and the underside of vaults. For the craftsmen-constructors, they require the application of detailed geometric principles; for the viewer, they allow infinitely imaginative reviewing. This Timurid muqarnas – from the Khargird madrese in NE Iran – has additional painted stucco …

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Natanz 2: a gorgeous shrine

Many travellers stop at Natanz to see the gorgeous Ilkhanid (early 14th century) façade. It’s one of the most spectacular sights in Iranian architecture, and it’s only an hour or so from Isfahan, on the way to Kashan. With its blend of glazed tile, stucco, and terra cotta it’s been described as a 3-D version …

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How to appreciate hybrid Safavid paintings

The IHF/ BL digitisation project keeps producing treasures. A recent BL blog discussed the hybrid paintings of Muhammad Zaman ibn Hajji Yusuf Qummi (fl. 1649-1704): “famous for his figures in European dress and use of night scenes and shadows”. I’ve never much liked these hybrid pictures, but was fascinated to read a whole new way …

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Background to the development of Isfahan

In 1590/1, three years after he had deposed his father, Shah Abbas visited Isfahan[1]. Aged only nineteen, he was still fighting to re-conquer his own country. He had recently made a humiliating – if pragmatic – peace with the Ottomans; as well as losing Mashhad (and the important Shia shrine there) to the Uzbeks. Shortly …

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Wall Painting

This photograph shows how the design concept in the dome at Torbat Heydarieh extends down the walls, with muqarnas (stalactite vaulting) effects in the corners. [C.P.3]

Crafts & Craftsmen of Iran

As I started to visit buildings in Iran, I started to meet Iranian craftsmen – often high up on rudimentary scaffolding. I also started to realise how little is understood about their impressive skills and knowledge. With many master craftmen (ustads) relatively old, and relatively few young men now wanting to undergo the lengthy, often …

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