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Palaces and Gardens of Persia

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Active ImageAuthor: Yves Porter
Photographer: Arthur Thevenard

In both decoration and design, the grand buildings and gardens of traditional Persia consistently refer to "paradise." The very word itself refers to a sense of heavenly perfection, derived from an early Iranian term for "the Shah's royal hunting grounds."

The fine touches of heaven that lie behind the colorful tiled façades of palace pavilions and mosques still shine in this richly illustrated and scholarly work. Enter gardens with intricate fountains and majestic ponds fed by water that is sourced from underground aqueducts dating to the 6th century. From ancient mirrored shrines of Shiraz and geometric gardens of Kashan to the ornate domes of Ispahan, here is a glorious photographic timeline drawn in water, brick, and ceramic ornamentation along the 3,000 years of the region's architecture.

Persia, a land of palaces and gardens, is paradise on earth. From ancient Achaemenid sites to the magnificent mirrored shrines of Shiraz, from the lush geometric gardens of Kashan to the ornate domes of Ispahan, the reader will discover the fundamental roles of water, brick, and ornamentation in the country's unique architectural heritage. With their intricate fountains and majestic ponds, Persian oasis gardens celebrate water that is still sourced from underground aqueducts dating back to the 6th century, as do palace hammams, so central to Islamic culture's belief in purification by water. Persian gardens are meant as an escape from the harsh realities of desert life and are jealously hidden away within high brick walls. The Islamic tiles, precious metals, and glittering jewels - hidden behind the colorful facades of palace pavilions and mosques - recount the mysteries of these timeless splendors.

Yves Porter is a professor of Islamic art history at the University of Aix-en-Provence and at the Institute of Art and Archeology in Paris. He is the author of The Art of the Islamic Tile (Flammarion, 2002).

Arthur Thévenart's work as a photographer has lead him to travel extensively across the Middle East.

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