Evaluating the Feasibility of Using Erwin Panofsky’s Method in Reading the Facades of Persian Historic Houses

Document Type : Research Article


1 Ph.D. Candidate in Islamic Architecture, Faulty of Architecture and Urbanism, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Iran.

2 Associate Professor in Architecture, Faulty of Architecture and Urbanism, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor in Architecture, Faulty of Architecture and Urbanism, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Iran.

4 Associate Professor in Carpet, Faculty of Carpet, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Iran.


Problem statement: In researches based on the history of Persian architecture, historic resources that a researcher can rely on for extracting needed information and conducting such studies - except historic buildings themselves- are generally limited. Thus, getting to know, acquiring complete knowledge, and being skilled in the methodologies that can help to extract historical information from historic buildings through reading them, seem necessary. Among the methodologies known and used by researchers for reading historic works of art, Iconology of Erwin Panofsky is the one that seeks the meaning of the work as opposed to its form. This method which has three strata, although in Iran, has been used in historical-interpretive studies in the fields of miniature painting, carpet, or historical objects, less has been used in studies in the field of Persian historic architecture.
Research objective: This research primarily seeks to understand if Panofsky’s iconology is generally applicable for the researches in the field of history of architecture as the research methodology; and secondly, investigates if the method is applicable specifically for studying facades of historic Persian houses, and evaluates the advantages and limitations of the method while being used in this specific field.
Research method: Having assured about the general applicability of iconology as a methodology for the history of architecture studies, through performing library research, we read a façade of a Qajar- Pahlavi house in Tabriz as a case study, according to three strata of the method.
Conclusion: The results indicate that applying Panofsky’s Iconology to the history of architecture studies as the research methodology is prevalent. They also show that it is applicable especially for studying facades of Persian historic houses; however, the researcher might confront some limitations along with the advantages of using this method.


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