Recognizing the Correspondence of Alchemy and Sacred Art in Iran by Studying Luster-Ware Mihrabs

Document Type : Research Article


1 Ph.D. Candidate in Art Research, Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Professor of Department of Art Research, Faculty of Art, Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Professor of Department of Art Research, Faculty of Art and Architecture, Tehran Center Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.


Problem statement: The basis of alchemy, contrary to what is presented to people today, has mystical aspects and without mysticism, alchemy is no longer considered alchemy. Alchemy is associated with mysticism in monotheistic religions and has been of great value in Islam. Mysticism is the source of Islamic sacred art and historically it has had a deep relation with alchemy. Among the sacred arts luster-ware mihrab is one of the most comprehensive examples. In the art of Luster-ware, a worthless brick is transformed into a tile with a luster-ware resplendence by performing an operation that corresponds to an alchemy allegorical action which is the transformation of a base metal into gold. This correspondence, along with the union between Islamic mysticism and alchemy, suggests the importance of alchemy in the structure of sacred art, especially in luster-ware mihrabs. The Main Question is what role did alchemy play in shaping the luster-ware mihrabs and how are the symbols of alchemy in these works manifested
Research objective: The main purpose of this article is to explain the importance of alchemy, as wisdom related to Islamic mysticism, in the decoration of the luster-ware mihrabs.
Research method: In this research, due to its historical nature, library resources are used and a comparative study of luster-ware mihrabs as one of the most comprehensive sacred works in the Islamic art of Iran, is conducted with symbols of alchemy in a descriptive-analytical manner.
Conclusion: By visually studying the luster-ware mihrabs, the effects of alchemy as an ancient mysticism in Islamic art of Iran can be observed. The concepts of alchemy have appeared in the visual form of the luster-ware mihrabs, with a cryptic expression and in the form of overt and covert symbols. These symbols, like alchemy itself, have a thematic scope. Alchemical symbols, laws of reflection and duality, geometric motifs such as circle, square, seal of Solomon and the figure of snake are among the symbols that reveal the connection between the luster-ware mihrabs and alchemy mysticism and also show the presence of alchemy in the visual system of Islamic sacred art.


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