Comparative Study of Designs between Safavid and Gorkanid Brocades

Document Type : Research Article



Safavid era is a very important period for Iranian weaving industry.  Many kinds of luxury fabrics were produced in different cities during this era.  In fact, the weaving of all types of fabrics were developed rapidly under patron of Safavid kings.   Two important luxurious fabrics at the time were velvets and brocades.  Brocade weaving was at its climax of prosperity during the Safavid era.        The Safavid kings in Iran were considered to have close ties to the Gorkanid (Moghols) kings in India.  This was mostly due to the cultural, political and social affinities between two dynasties at the time.   It was therefore natural for artists to commute frequently between the two countries.  This led to the development of common motifs and designs in artistic works, especially in woven products, of Iran and India.      Fabrics have always been an important component of Indian and Persian civilizations.  In the Gorkanid era (16th-17th centuries A.D.) a diverse range of fabrics were produced.  Remains of the fabrics obtained in India show that they were generally produced with the finest quality and usually contained decorative motifs including flowers, animals and geometrical patterns.   The present research was carried out through the historical and comparative methods.  According to the library resources and pictures, the Indian brocade fabric designs were extracted and studied and then compared with those of Iranian artists to reveal the influence of Persian arts on Indian fabrics.  Brocade is a silk golden fabric woven with supplementary weft yarn named “zari”, a golden (silver) core yarn, to produce golden designs and luxury fabric used by king and royal family.  The weft yarns were used for fabric decoration. The main warp and weft threads of the fabric are silk yarns.   Brocades were famous for the excellence of the weaving techniques and designs which were comprised of flowers, birds, animals and human figures.  The most important specifications of Indian brocades can be classified as: content, techniques, aesthetics, designs, decorative elements and styles.     Brocade designs are very diverse. A common design is called framed design that consists of small frames on the surface of the fabric.  Each small frame can be filled with one common motif or different motifs. Motifs included human figures, animals, flowers, etc.   These kinds of designs are very common in Iranian fabrics.     Repeating decorative designs is another technique used in production of brocade fabrics.   This was done by, for example, repeating one small motif throughout all the surface of the fabric.  The common decorative elements are flowers, alone or with a vase.  In Persian style designs of brocade, the flowers, trees and bushes are more common.  Striped designs are also common in Indian and Persian brocades. Sometimes the strips are narrow and sometimes they are wide with designs of flowers drawn in them. These fabrics were used as wall hangings and curtains.   Medallion design is one of the most important decorative elements specially in carpet weaving. A circle or oval or lozenge shape was made in the centre of the fabric and then a quarter of the medallion was repeated in four corners to impart a symmetrical sense to the fabric.  Mihrab design has no pictures of human or animals and is used to produce prayer rugs in Iran.  In this style, flowers with arabesque designs were used for brocades decoration.  This style was very common in Safavid brocades. Calligraphy can be seen in Islamic arts. During Safavid period, artists used to decorate fabrics with writings.  However, in some Indian brocades writings were used to produce fabrics.  Motifs can be repeated regularly in small frames or used in different styles.  Temples became a focal point for a group of artists and they ornamented their products in different ways in temples.   The inspirations from religions, the style of life, and nature have influenced craftsmen in brocade weaving.  The amounts of decorative motifs in brocade fabrics are very high and include flowers and trees, animals and birds, human figures and geometric designs.  Iranian artists tended to use flowers such as poppies and roses and bushes as main subjects in their works.  However, other elements were later added to those designs.  The application of designs is totally with skill and attention. The repeated element is a single flower or sometimes a bunch of flowers in real or abstract forms.  Birds on the trees or flying birds are seen in brocades, as well. Also, domestic or wild animals were weaved on the main field of the fabrics such as deer and tiger.  Animals were always located in the background such as birds with trees or animals with human.  Safavid weavers used human figures in their fabrics. Symmetric or asymmetric pictures were applied in fabric designs. Human can be seen in different perspectives. Sometimes people are in a party or in a jungle for hunting or appear as personifications of characters of an old story or epic poems such as Shahnameh.  Geometrical designs are rare in brocade fabrics and usually are circle, dots, lines, zigzag and heart shapes.