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Muhammad Mudassar Sharif

Nov 24, 2019
A summary of lecture delivered by Dr. Nadhra Shahbaz

In the lecture delivered by Dr. Nadhra Shahbaz, she provided her valuable insight into the tools

which help in decoding the Iranian paintings and how these paintings communicate certain things. The

context in which a painting is painted, is important. When a painting is seen in the context of its story, it

has the potential of communication the whole story as well as the moment of the story on which it was

painted, presenting to us the world of that time as if the time stood freezed, capturing the characters and

their stories the moment it was captured in the eyes of its painter.

There were certain customary rules which the painters followed in their painting and are common to

almost all the Iranian paintings of that time. These rules are related to structuring of the painting; for

example, the positioning of the subject in the painting based on their importance. Some of these customary

rules are as follows:

1- Centre of the painting:

The character which is important and has some significant to what the painter is willing to convey is placed

close to the center. The first glance which an observer makes at a painting is the center of it, which is the

main reason why important characters are closer to the center whiles others are drawn closer to the corners.

2- Size of a character:

Size of a character tells us about its importance in a painting. The characters with more significance are

drawn slightly bigger. This also has to do with the same reason that the bigger characters draw more

attention towards themselves thus conveying the observer about their importance.

3- Body language of a character:

Body language of a character, as drawn in a painting, plays an important role. It conveys about the feeling,

emotions, and state of mind of a character. For example, if he is represented as panicked, it tells us much

about his character, his valour and much more.

4- Deliberate use of colors:

The use of colors by the painters was based on their deliberate decision instead of a random decision.

Certain color combinations were used to convey a certain message. For example, to make the king

prominent, his clothes were painted green and the people around him were deliberately painted red.

5- Importance of elevated area:

Elevated areas in the painting played important role in conveying the importance of a character. The more

important characters were drawn in elevated areas in the painting.

6- Text and position of the text:

The position of the text in a painting can tell us about the time when a certain painting was painted. Earlier,

the text was given more importance and it covered more space of the page as compared to the painting. As

time passed, gradually the size of paintings stated to increase the size of text started to shrink. This can

help us in making the idea of the times when a certain painted was painted.

7- Effect of painting on culture:

The Chintamani pattern, on the clothing of Rustom in paintings, became a part of the lifestyle of people

and they started wearing clothes with Chintamani pattern printed or embroidered on them. This pattern is

still very common and is printed on the clothing. This tells us how these paintings had influence on the


8- Political Symbols in paintings:

The paintings can have political symbols in them. For example, in a painting in which Rustom and Raksh

as shown on the same side and they are fighting a dragon may be representing the deterrence of Iran against

the Chinese. During the times of Mangols, Chinese took over Persia, hence Rustom slaying the dragon

may have a political symbolization, as dragon is the symbol of the Chinese.

2) Paintings from Mughal era:

Other than the Iranian painting, the paintings on ‘Masti gate’ and ‘Hathi paer gate’ were discussed

as well. Dr. Nadhra Shahbaz pointed out that the paintings of Mughal kings with the painting of King

Taimur on the other side points to the fact that Mughal took great pride attaching in their lineage with King