Perspective as a Commodity: The Economic Context of Linear Perspective Appearance in Late Safavid Painting

Document Type : Research Article


1 PH. D. candidate in Art Research, Art university of Isfahan.

2 Isfahan university of art


From the mid-Safavid era and with the rise of commercial and cultural exchanges between Iran and West, a major transition in mode of displaying "space" in Persian Ppainting had appeared. Therefore, Persian painters in various methods applied the "Linear Perspective" in Persian painting at that time. The historical origins of this technique stemmed from the European Renaissance. Some theorists have considered economic context as the reason for scientific and cultural Revolution of Renaissance. In this respect, the appearance of this technique in painting is also dependent on the initial stages of development of the capitalistic mode of production. The purpose of this paper is to study the application of this technique in the late Safavid painting in relation to the economic context of that period. The findings of this study show that linear perspective have been applied incompletely and regionally in late Safavid paintings and Iranian painters did not conduct a serious determination for accurate and comprehensive application of this technique in their works. Simultaneously, in the economical context, following the centralization of power by Safavid (especially from the reign of Shah Abbas) and the monopolizing of the "economy", the conditions for the emergence of free class of laborers and independent merchants as requirements of production relations of capitalism were not provided. Hence, the materialistic culture based on this method of production was not developed. Despite the familiarity and the needs of Safavids to the technological goods of Modern West, at that time, "the mode of production" of these goods couldn’t progress in economy of Iran. It shows that the application of linear perspective technique in Persian painting  is structurally analogous to the mode of entering and use of these technological goods. Similarly, perspective in Persian painting couldn’t be customized. If perspective in Renaissance painting is a symbol of the capitalism economy at certain stages of its growth, this technique in Persian painting is only a "representation" of that symbol; a symbol that will not refer to its economic context.


Adele, A. (2007). Negarehaye Irani Ganjineh Armitage [Persian paintings of Armitage Treasury]. Tehran: Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance publications.
Azhand, Y. (2006). Maktab Negargari Isfahan [Isfahan School of Painting]. Tehran: Iranian Academy of the Arts publicataions.
Canby, S. (1996). Farangi Saz: The Impact of Europe of Safavid Painting. Silk and Stone: The Art of Asia, Ed. Jill Tilden, London: Hali Publication: 46-59.
Caudwell, C. (1939). The crisis in Physics. NewYork: Dodd Mead.
Gary, B. (2006). Persian Painting. Translated by: Shorveh, A. Tehran: Donyaye no publications.
Goldstein, Leonard. (1988). The Social and Cultural Roots of linear Perspective. Minneapolis: MEP Publication.
Haeri, A. (2001). The First Confrontations of Iranian Thinkers and Double Faces of Western Bourgeois Civilization. Tehran: Amir Kabir publications.
Hauser, A. (1998). Social History of Art. Trans. by: Yunesi, E. Tehran: Sherkat Sahami ntesharat Kharazmi.
Holly, M. A. (1984). Panofsky and the Foundation of Art History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Keyvan, M. (2013). Artisans and Guild Life in the Later Safavid Period. Translated by: Farrokhi, Y. Tehran: Publications of Amir Kabir Institution.
Koyre, A. (2008). From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Translated by: Shomali, A. Tehran: Negahe Moaser publications.
Marx, K. (2009). Capital: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Translated by: Mortazavi, H. Tehran: Agah publications.
Manheim, K. (1953). Conservative Thought. Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology. Ed. Paul Kecskemet, New York: Oxford University Press.
Navidi, D. (2007). Socio-Economic and Political Change in Safavid Iran. Translated by: Aghajari, D. Tehran: Ney publications.
Panofsky, E. (1991). Perspective as a Symbolic Form, Translated By Christopher S. Wood. New York: Zone books.
Pakbaz, R. (2011). Naghashi Irani [Persian Painting]. Tehran: Zarin and Simin publications.
Vali, A. (2001). Pre-Capitalist Iran. Translated by: Shamsavar, H. Tehran: Markaz publications.