Saturday, July 2, 2011

Decorative Stucco Work in Iran

Carved stucco, gach, or plasterwork is wet gypsum that is applied to whole walls or to particular parts of a structure, such as the mehrab in the mosque, indicating the direction of Mecca. It is both inexpensive, easy to work with, and long-lasting and can be molded and carved into exquisite lace-like patterns. While examples date back to the Parthian and Sassanian Dynasties, the work we saw was mostly done between the 10th and 14th centuries, during the Seljuk and the Ilkhanid Dynasties. The photo above is from the 10th century mosque in Na'in. The one below is from the mehrab of the Winter Hall at the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan. It is the most elaborate form of stucco work that we saw. I wish we could have seen it being done.

The floral designs might include arabesques of stems, leaves, and calligraphy interwoven on several levels to create a sense for depth and movement.

The stucco can also be molded to form stalactites, here at the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan, which might be covered with tiles or mirrors.
Plasterwork can also be painted.

Gypsum can also be used to form boxes which can be carved, as in the Music Room at the Ali Qapu Palace in Esfahan.

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