Art, History, Persian Architecture, Persian Heritage, Persian Tattoos

The Rich and Alluring History of Persian Art

In the 6th century BC, the Persians had a vast empire that stretched all the way from the Indus Valley to the northern region of Greece, and from Egypt to Central Asia. But Persia was unique. It was tolerant, accepting of other languages, faiths and political organizations. It was one (if not the) first multi-ethnic empires.

Not surprisingly, Persia is known for having one of the richest art histories in the world and thrived in all types of media from weaving to painting, architecture, metalworking, sculpture, pottery and more.

Themes and Motifs in Persian Art

Surviving ancient monuments from Persia depict mostly humans and animals. Humans were typically male and often royalty. Persian art focused more on figures than Islamic art from other regions.

Persian art is intensely ornate and often laid out in a geometric fashion. Motifs were combined harmoniously to create elegant pieces, with influences from various regions of the empire. Chinese motifs, like the cloud-band, were incorporated, and animals were often depicted on a much smaller scale than the plants surrounding them.

Persian Art Forms and Styles

The Persians mastered numerous art forms and styles from pottery to ceramics, metalworking, miniature paintings, and sculptures.

Pottery and Rock Reliefs

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of pottery-painted civilization located near Susa that date back to 5000 BC. Rock reliefs have also been discovered that date back as far as 500 BC.

Persian pottery

Reliefs were typically placed beside roads and near water sources, and were used as a way to glorify the Persian king, Elamite and Lullubi were the first to create reliefs, and the practice continued under the Assyrians and beyond.

Persian Miniature

The Persian miniature, a small painting on paper, was another popular art form. The art may have been featured in a book as an illustration, or it may have been a separate persian miniaturepiece intended to keep in an album of miniature works, referred to as a muraqqa. The techniques used to create the Persian miniature were very similar to the Byzantine and Western traditions of the miniatures in illuminated manuscripts.


Persian ceramics took inspiration from Chinese porcelain. Pieces featured Chinese motifs and forms, such as dragons and chi clouds, and were typically painted in blue and white.

Numerous types of ceramics were produced by the Persians, including plates, flasks, spittoons and goblets. Flask shapes were typically flat on one side and rounded on the other with small necks. The shapes were generally inspired by Islamic metalwork, while the decoration was borrowed from Chinese porcelain.

Persian Carpets

Persia is, perhaps, best-known for its carpet weaving, which is still an essential part of the art and culture. Persian rugs are known for their elaborate designs, which is what sets them apart from their peers.

Persian carpets and rugs are woven in parallel, typically in local workshops by nomadic tribes. Each region has its own customary styles and themes.

While carpet weaving has seen its fair share of ups and downs throughout history, it still play a major role in the modern Iran economy.

Despite the Persian Empire’s fall around 465 BC, its rich art history still influences modern art today. While Persia may be best-known for its ornate carpets and rugs, the empire produced some of the most impressive miniature paintings, metalworking pieces and sculptures of its time.

Art, Persian Heritage

After 2,000 Years, Persian Carpets are Still Popular Today

Aside from its conquering of the world, Persia is best-known for its carpet-weaving. When most people hear the words “Persian carpet,” they typically think of rugs with extremely ornate designs and equally extreme price tags. And that’s a pretty accurate description.

From the moment the Greeks mentioned them in writings, Persian carpets have had a reputation for being something only the most elite and wealthy individuals owned; esteemed for their high artistic value.

Persian weaving techniques vary from town to town, as does the colors and motifs featured on the carpets they produce. Traditionally, carpets were produced by nomadic tribes.

A Look Back at the History of Persian Carpets

Historians are still unsure of when Persians began weaving carpets simply because we don’t have much evidence – carpets are vulnerable to destruction from rodents and insects.

But we do know that carpet weaving in the region dates back to at least 400 BC. The famous Pazyryk carpet, which is largely considered the oldest carpet in the world, was found in a Scythian nobleman’s grave in Siberia. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the carpet was created in the 5th century BC.

Pazyryk carpet

The Pazyryk carpet is about 9ft by 6.5ft., and features about 232 knots per square inch. The advanced techniques used to weave the carpet suggests that this art form was well developed and therefore, had likely been around for quite some time before 400 BC.

Today, the tradition of carpet weaving is still alive and well in Iran and other regions that were formerly a part of the Persian Empire. Despite increased competition from countries with lower wages and cheaper methods of production, traditional Persian carpets are highly sought after and prized for their artistic value.

How Traditional Persian Carpets Are Made

While you will find modern carpets that imitate the design and weaving method used by Persians, the most valuable and popular carpets are those made in the traditional way.

Sheep’s wool is the most common material type, although the quality can vary from one region to the next depending on the climate and the breed of sheep. Some fine Persian rugs are made entirely of silk, but these are typically hung as tapestries on the wall or used as pillows rather than traditional carpets.

Modern rugs also feature cotton on the wefts and warps. Cotton is preferred here because it can be spun more tightly and is more tolerant of tension, which makes it an ideal choice for the rug’s foundation.

Wool, cotton and silk fibers spun mechanically or by hand to create yarn.

Natural plant and insect dyes are the preferred choice even for modern carpets, although synthetic dyes are sometimes used.

Weaving techniques are complex and vary between different regions. You’ll find that there are several provinces that produce Persian carpets, and many have their own weaving techniques and motifs.

The ancient art of Persian carpet weaving dates back to at least 400 BC, and they’re still highly sought after even today. Despite rising and falling in popularity throughout history, Persian rugs hold high artistic and utilitarian value to this day.