Redefining Woman’s Role in the Family and its Impact on the Painting Decorations and Structure of Aristocratic Houses in Tehran during the Qajar era

Document Type : Research Article



Many of the biographies and travelogues of Qajar era have reported a gradual change in the culture of aristocratic families in Tehran especially since the middle of Naseri period. Some of these changes gradually modified the definition of woman’s role in the family. The purpose of this paper is to examine how the changes appeared in the body, painting decorations and structure of the house based on the redefinition of woman’s role in Tehran during the Qajar era. Thus, the present study is not aimed at describing the shapes used in the body of the house, or analyzing the house based on figurative, climatic and spatial criteria but it has mainly investigated the relation of the body and structure of the aristocratic houses with the life cultures. Therefore, reconstructing the behaviors and relationships among family members and home affairs have been carried out by studying the biographies, travelogues and texts of that period so that the effect of family structure, which is heavily influenced by the definition of woman’s role, on the aristocratic houses was examined in the Qajar era. The architecture of houses has been studied in two body parts, the form of the house and painting decorations, and the structure, the relationships between different areas of the house. Furthermore, in the analysis of spatial and structural patterns used in the architecture of aristocratic houses, it should be noted that the spaces used in the house with a fixed face and realized rules and sometimes with semi-fixed and flexible models were sometimes emerged as formless and with invisible relationships. Therefore, the shape and the body of the house can not represent the events and lifestyle by themselves. Here again, the role of reconstructing behaviors and events is revealed mainly through the study of the literature of that period. Data collection of words and images is seeking to answer these two questions: How has the definition of woman in family affected the structure, body and decorations of aristocratic houses? And how has the change in the definition of woman modified the body and structure of the aristocratic houses in Qajar era? It seems that the response to the posed questions roots in the pale of male-female borders. Thus, the research hypothesis can be stated as: the pale of male-female borders has led to the changes in the body, painting decorations and structure of aristocratic houses. Since considering the status of women in the context and background of Qajar era, regardless of the lifestyle, family structure and socio-cultural conditions of the period is not possible therefore, examining the facts relating to the definition of women’s status was carried out on the basis of historical research plan and through using the primary and sometimes secondary sources. The present study was carried out by using the interpretation-historical research method which involves four stages: First, gathering sources which are mostly the primary ones in the present study and includes biographies, memoirs, and interviews. The next step is to collect and organize the data and then, to evaluate, describe and analyze the data and finally, to sum up and make conclusions. The targeted sampling was intended in the present research so that among the various aristocratic houses which reflect their own certain characteristics, a sample house was chosen so the comparison was facilitated between them. Therefore, five Qajar’s aristocratic houses were selected based on the historic transposition and different physical and structural features. Since identifying the woman’s role in the period is not something that has a lot of available primary information, reading the biographies, memoirs, and interviews is considered useful in order to understand the life culture of the aristocratic and explain the woman’s role in that culture. The next step is to investigate the relationship between the body and structure of the house and the life culture of the house. Then, the change in the woman’s definition has been considered in that period and the five aristocratic houses were explored in order to analyze how the changes were made in the body and structure of the house. Finally, analyzing and summarizing the data and making conclusions of them have been carried out. The results show that women’s participations in the community which were previously hidden, and the pale of male-female borders made a difference in the life culture, so that the need for having eunuchs as a liaison between the male and female worlds was gradually vanished since the late Nasseri period. Multiple interior spaces and some spaces for the eunuchs were eventually excluded due to the spread of monogamy, and consequently, the house became more focused-body. The themes of painting decorations of this period are also the narrator of the above changes; therefore, images of foreign women started to appear on the walls and ceilings of the halls and alcoves of aristocratic houses and the bodies of women and men’s started to be written distinctively in the middle of Nasseri period.