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Tehran

[Teheran; Tihrān].

Capital city of Iran since 1785.

I. History and urban development. II. Art life and organization.

I. History and urban development

Located on the southern foothills of the Alburz Mountains, Tehran was a small agricultural enclave in medieval times with the typical shape of a walled rectangle with gates in the middle of the four sides and two additional gates and a citadel (500×800 m) on the north. As other important centers in the area declined, the city developed to become particularly prominent under the patronage of the Qajar dynasty (r. 1779–1924; see Architecture, §VII, B, 2). Agha Muhammad (r. 1779–97) selected the citadel for his palace and administrative center, and Fath ῾Ali Shah (r. 1797–1834; see Qajar, §II, A) completed the Gulistan Palace. The only buildings that remain from this sprawling complex with luxuriant gardens set with pools and pavilions are the Takht-i Marmar (see color pl. 3:VIII, fig. 1), a columnar audience hall, and the ῾Imarat-i Badgir on the north and south sides. In the surrounding bazaar quarter Fath ῾Ali Shah had several mosques built, including the Shah Mosque (completed 1824), with the traditional layout of four iwans grouped around a central courtyard containing an ablution tank.

Tehran

1. Takht-i Marmar (Marble Throne), Gulistan Palace, Tehran, 1797–1834, rebuilt 1867–92; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom; see Tehran, §I

view larger image

In 1870–72 the city was enlarged and rebuilt by Nasir al-Din (r. 1848–96; see Qajar, §II, B). Congested areas were demolished and large squares and broad boulevards laid out. The city was quadrupled in size and encircled with new walls embellished with towers, 12 tiled gates and a moat. The work was modeled on that ordered by Napoleon III (r. 1852–70) in Paris, and the walls were designed by General Buhler to a plan based on the fortifications built there by Sébastien Leprestre de Vauban (1633–1707). At the center of the new city stood the Gulistan Palace, which was also rebuilt (1867–92), maintaining the traditional segregation of public and private areas. On the east side Nasir al-Din ordered the Shams al-῾Imarat, a private residence comprising a multi-story tower with two turrets as balconies. The work was supervised by Dust ῾Ali Khan Nizam al-Dawla. Fath ῾Ali Shah's taste for painted decoration was replaced by Nasir al-Din's for polychrome tilework, ornately carved stucco and mirror-glass. Nasir al-Din then turned to the north side of the palace, replacing Fath ῾Ali Shah's buildings with a spacious series of rooms (1873–82), including a stair decorated with mirrors, a tiled vestibule, an audience hall and other reception areas. The rooms were linked behind an impressive double-story façade that combined such European features as tall windows and semi-engaged Classical columns with tilework decoration. The Naranjistan (Orangery) Palace was built and the retaining walls of the compound tiled. New women's quarters (Pers. andarūn; destr.) were built behind the audience hall, and the small Kakh-i Abyad (White palace), a two-story rectangular building that has been converted into the Ethnographic Museum, added on the south side near the entrance to the palace gardens.

Work on the palaces by later Qajar monarchs was on a much reduced scale. Muzaffar al-Din (r. 1896–1907) added tilework friezes (1899) to the hall leading from the entrance vestibule of Nasir al-Din's building on the north side. In techniques and subject matter the old and modern are blended: the friezes are worked in a stippled and hatched sepia and white color scheme inspired by contemporary lithographs and photographs and show rulers of Persia from the Parthians to the Safavids and views of Persian and European monuments. The Qajar court summered in the Shimiranat (Shemran), villages in the foothills that have become northern suburbs of the capital. One of Fath ῾Ali Shah's favorite palaces there, the Nigaristan (completed 1810), comprised a 300-acre garden set with a domed pavilion, an octagonal audience hall decorated with paintings of the royal family receiving foreign ambassadors and a closed rectangular structure built around an inner courtyard serving as the women's quarters. Only a vaulted pavilion decorated in mauve and white stucco survives; it now serves as the Museum of National Arts. The most splendid of Fath ῾Ali Shah's summer palaces was the Qasr-i Qajar (destr. 1950s), a series of symmetrically ascending terraces, each contained within an arcaded brick wall. At the summit were the royal apartments decorated with portraits of the royal family. A columnar gatehouse at the base gave access to an enormous formal garden bisected by water channels and a central pool. Nasir al-Din's two summer palaces, ῾Ishratabad and Sultanatabad, built in 1888 above and below the Qasr-i Qajar, continue the tradition of separate buildings set within a garden precinct but are more irregular in plan and decoration. At ῾Ishratabad the monarch's private apartments are contained in a four-story brick tower; the three bottom stories are decorated with polychrome tiles and the upper story has an open colonnade. The women's quarters included 17 chalets grouped around a lake. At Sultanatabad the private apartments are contained in a five-story polygonal tower and the public audience hall is a rectangular building with a deep colonnaded porch. Its reception room has a superbly painted ceiling and dado of polychrome tiles, whose subjects range from traditional Persian themes to whimsical copies of European subjects.

Bibliography

  • Enc. Islam/2: “Tihrān” Find it in your Library
  • P. Coste: Monuments modernes de la Perse (Paris, 1867), p. 42; pls. LVIII–LXI Find it in your Library
  • Y. Dhika῾: Tārīkhchi-yi sākhtimānhā-yi arg-i salṭanatī-yi Tihrān va rāhnamā-yi kākh-i gulistān [A short history of the construction of the royal fortress of Tehran and guide to the Gulistan Palace] (Tehran, Iran. Solar 1349/1970–71) Find it in your Library
  • H. Kariman: Tihrān dar guzāshta va hāl [Tehran in the past and today] (Tehran, n.d.) Find it in your Library
  • J. Scarce: “The Royal Palaces of the Qajar Dynasty: A Survey,” Qajar Iran, ed. E. Bosworth and C. Hillenbrand (Edinburgh, 1983), pp. 329–51 Find it in your Library
  • W. Barthold: An Historical Geography of Iran, trans. S. Soucek (Princeton, 1984), pp. 125–8 Find it in your Library

II. Art life and organization

Since 1785, when the Qajar ruler Agha Muhammad made Tehran the capital of Iran, it has been an important center of art and architecture, mainly because of royal policies and patronage, first under the Qajars and then under the Pahlavis (r. 1925–79). Many painters were employed at the Qajar court (see Illustration, § VI, B). ῾Abdallah khan, Mihr ῾ali and Mirza baba, for example, produced large oil portraits of Fath ῾Ali Shah as well as murals and book illustrations. The Dar al-Funun (Polytechnic) was opened in 1851 with painting included in the curriculum. By 1911 the painter Kamal al-Mulk (see Ghaffari, §III) had established a school of art that promoted Western-style work. Photography, which was introduced to Iran in the 1840s, was encouraged at Nasir al-Din's court and also developed commercially; the most successful photographer was the Armenian antoin Sevruguin. In the late 19th century Nasir al-Din established a museum in the Gulistan Palace.

Art life was further enriched under Riza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925–41). In 1928 the French scholar andré Godard was invited to establish an archaeological service. In 1938 the Ethnographical Museum was founded, and the College of Fine Arts was opened at Tehran University; it became an important training ground for contemporary artists. In the same year the Crown Jewels were declared a national resource rather than the private property of the shah, thereby leading to the creation of the Crown Jewels Museum in the Bank Melli. Under Muhammad Riza (r. 1941–79) an increasing number of Western-style buildings were constructed in Tehran, and art inspired by contemporary Western styles received government support. In 1946 the Archaeological (Iran Bastan) Museum was founded. Commercial art galleries began to open in the 1950s, and five Tehran Biennale exhibitions were held between 1958 and 1966, the first four at the Abyad Palace in the Gulistan compound, the fifth at the Ethnographical Museum. An indigenous art movement known as Saqqakhana flourished, and many of the artists associated with it studied at the College of Decorative Arts, established in 1960. Such architects as nader Ardalan and kamran Diba were active in the 1960s and 1970s; their buildings, such as the Center for Management Studies (1972) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (1976), combined traditional Iranian and modern Western forms. In the 1970s several other museums were opened, including the Nigaristan Museum, which specialized in the art of the Qajar period, the Riza ῾Abbasi Museum, with a large collection of fine arts, the Carpet Museum and the Museum of Glass and Ceramics. Queen Farah formed a large collection of contemporary Iranian art, which she donated to various museums, and local works were commissioned by public institutions. With the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the nature of government patronage changed and art commemorating the ideals of the Revolution has been supported.

For additional information and bibliography see Iran.

Bibliography

  • Enc. Islam/2: “Tihrān” Find it in your Library
  • Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785–1925 (exh. cat. by L. S. Diba with M. Ekhtiar; New York, Brooklyn Mus.; Los Angeles, CA, Armand Hammer Mus. A.; London, U. London, SOAS, Brunei Gal.; 1998–9) Find it in your Library
  • Qajar Portraits (exh. cat. by J. Raby; London, U. London, SOAS, Brunei Gal., 1999) Find it in your Library
  • S. Balaghi and L. Gumpert, eds.: Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution (London 2002) Find it in your Library
  • H. Keshmirshekan: “Discourses on Postrevolutionary Iranian Art: Neotraditionalism during the 1990s,” Muqarnas, xxiii (2006), pp. 131–58 Find it in your Library
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