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Iranian art forms have a long tradition and distinctive style, as exemplified in architecture, carpets, ceramics, metalware, painting, and woodwork. Government patronage of artists dates from more than 2,000 years ago. Aesthetic ideals predating the Islamic conquest of the 7th century, such as stylized figural representation and geometric shapes, influenced the evolution of art in Iran during the early Islamic period (650-1220). Examples of elaborately decorated bronze, ceramic, gold, and silver objects from this period are preserved in museums. Persian poetry also developed during this time, and works by several poets of the period are considered classic literature. During the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722), considered a golden age for Iranian art, miniature painting and architecture reached their highest point of development. In the 20th century Iranian artists and writers began experimenting with new styles and techniques, incorporating European and East Asian influences into their work.





From its beginnings in the 9th century, Modern Persian literature was dominated by poetry. Important poets of the 9th through the 12th century include Rudaki, noted for his qasidas (panegyrics, or written works of praise); Firdawsi, who wrote the famous epic of pre-Islamic Iran, the Shahnameh (completed in 1010); Omar Khayyam, author of the famous Rubáiyát; and Nezami, who wrote the collection known as Khamseh (Quintet). Persian poetry reached its height in the 13th and 14th centuries with mystical poets Jalal al-Din Rumi, Sa’di, and Hafiz. Subsequently, Persian literature declined, and for nearly five centuries both poetry and prose remained uninspired imitation of past masters. A literary revival began in the late 19th century and has continued to the present. Fiction, especially in the form of the short story, has emerged as a new and important genre. Modern Iranian writers include Mashid Amirshahi, Simin Daneshvar, Ismail Fassih, Houshang Golshiri, and Moshen Makhmalbaf (who also directs films). Writers may explore many themes that were prohibited prior to the 1979 revolution, such as political freedom, rebellion against authority, satire of monarchy, and fictional accounts of suffering under the Pahlavi dynasty. However, since the revolution, works deemed to be anti-religious have been banned. See also Persian Literature.




Persian art and architecture first developed in the time of Persian king Cyrus the Great (6th century bc) and experienced a renaissance during the Sassanid dynasty (224-651 ad). After the Islamic conquest, the mosque became the major building type, and several new styles of painting developed and thrived during the Safavid era (1501-1722).

The 1979 revolution ushered in a period of renewed creativity in fine and applied arts. The proliferation of exhibits sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, by various museums, and by private galleries inspired artistic creativity in mediums as diverse as calligraphy, graphic art, painting, photography, pottery, and sculpture. The boom in public and private construction following the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) provided new opportunities for architects. Most new buildings have tended to be updated versions of the structures they replaced. Some younger architects have been experimenting with designs that incorporate traditional architectural motifs into contemporary buildings. In textile arts, younger designers continue to experiment with new patterns and color schemes for hand-knotted carpets and woven coverings. See also Iranian Art and Architecture.



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