Old Traditional Doors
The beauty of doors is that they have lived with us every step of our lives, they have walked with us hand in hand in our conscious and subconscious life. Doors are as old as the first shelters Throughout time human beings have paid a lot of attention to the entrance of their houses. They decorated the doors of their houses according to the influence of time and history. Thus different styles, colors, and materials were used throughout the years. Doors reflect the personality of the owners. They can be big or small; simple or decorated. Nevertheless, no matter how they present themselves, they are the reflection of the world they keep inside.
They are like the eyes... the mirror of the soul. They not only represent the social status of their owners but also reflect their beliefs. Greetings and goodbyes are expressed near doors. Sometimes they are welcoming and other times they can make us feel hesitant. Doors have played an important role in Persian Architecture. Before talking about Persian doors, it seems necessary to look into Persian architecture, briefly. Persian architecture developed as a distinct school of style in the Achaemenid period and reached its peak with Persepolis, one of the architectural wonders of ancient times. During the Sassanid period, Persian architecture underwent major development in form and technique. Different methods of building and construction developed, which influenced the architecture of the centuries to come. This served as the basis upon which the remarkable Islamic Architecture of Persia flourished.
The glorious architecture of Iran has constantly glittered among other architectural monuments of the world, occupying a worthy place in the world of art. Returning to doors, we see that they vary in size and style according to the function and importance of the building and the location of the entrance in relation to the total composition. Doors also play a role in providing light, air ventilation, and natural views outside of an enclosed space. Therefore, doors play a significant role in decorating buildings as well as protecting them. We can divide doors into two major categories: A: From ancient times through the Safavid Period: During this period doors were usually made of wood. Either large pieces of wood were used or small pieces were joined together. In both techniques, decoration played an important role.
1- Doors made of joined woods were usually more elaborate and sometimes were inlaid with ivory and other precious materials and framed with bronze fitting inlaid with silver or gold. The middle panel was often larger than the upper and lower ones. The upper panels were inscribed and the lower ones contained geometric medallions. The superb curving of the central panels was filled with flower and leaf shapes. This wood carving technique is called Monnabat, which refers to protuberant designs of plants, flowers, etc. on wood. The word Monnabat originates from "Nabat" which means plant.
It was commonly used as the artist carved the patterns of various plants, trees, and flowers on rock or wood. Therefore, Monnabat is one of the most ancient forms of art. The oldest existing Monnabat work is a wooden door belonging to Atiq Mosque of Shiraz(late 11th century A.D) at the time of Amir Saffari. At the National Museum of Iran, there are several old wooden doors belonging to the 11th and 12th centuries A.D., which have very fine carvings in the shape of leaves, branches, and flowers.
2- Inlaying wooden doors is called "Monabat-Moarragh. In this technique precious woods, seashells, ivory, bones, copper, silver, and gold were used in the heart of the ordinary wood, and the artist created fantastic and elegant designs. This type of art has its roots in tile work, which has a longer history. The art of Monnabat reached its highest peak of development during the 16th and 17th centuries. 3- The carving of the pattern on wood with other materials in the wooden surface is another technique and is called "Khatam-Monnabat". This type of art seems to have arrived in Iran during the Mongol dominance and through direct contact with China. 4- Since people used to sit on the floor for meals and socialize, to be able to look at the view outside, their perspective started from the floor, and for this reason, they used the Orsi, which was a door window a door frame with two parts) one stable and one mobile. The stable part functioned as a separating element like a wall, and the mobile section was for a better view of the outside and ventilation.
The same arrangement of the three rectangular wooden panels continued on doors in the Safavid Period, but the technique of decoration changed. The surface was painted gold and then coated with varnish. Figures are the main decoration of the panels. Red, blue, green, and other colors have been used to give it contrast against the gold streak in the dark background of the surrounding area. B: Qajar and Pahlavi Period During the Qajar era the design and methods of construction of doors continued to be those from the previous periods. The doors were made of wood from mulberry trees and also from maple, alder, elm, and walnut. The simplest doors were decorated with rows of metal bosses, strips, and knockers. The bosses inlaid in double rows on the upper and lower parts of the doors were used to prevent the wooden panels from cracking. Door knockers were often signed by smiths. On the exterior left wing of the door, either a traditional narrow metal strip fastened directly or by means of a chain and on the right-wing, a metal half loop was fastened in the same way. This served the purpose of letting the host know who is knocking. The left metal strip was for the male and the half-loop for the female visitors. Doors of palaces and mosques were more elaborately decorated. They were carved, inlaid, or plated with engraved metal panels or sheets of precious metals. House doors were made in similar shapes and materials though on a scale close to the average height of a man. The degree of sophistication and decoration depended on the social status and wealth of the owner. In some regions, the decoration of doors reflected specific foreign influences. The designs of the late Qajar and early Pahlavi wooden doors also reflect European prototypes of the design. During the same period, it became the trend to paint the doors in flat colors, whereas previously they had been left in their natural wood colors and maintained by annual polishing with vegetable oils. Towards the end of the Pahlavi reign, European art-nouveau and art-deco styles were adopted for doors in Iran. There was also a tendency during the Pahlavis to revive historic styles particularly of the Achaemenian Sassanian and Safavid periods.
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