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KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Nishapur, medieval, daily life, wall painting, vegetal ornament, stucco
LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS CHAPTER
This carved plaster panel, from one of the houses excavated at Nishapur, provides a sense of how urban residences were decorated in tenth-century Iran.
This is one of several particularly well-preserved panels that adorned the lower part of the wall (dado) in a residential building in Nishapur. In the installation at the Museum, the panels from three separate rooms have been reconfigured in a single space approximately the same shape and dimensions as one of the rooms in the house from which they came (fig. 40).
The primary decorative element of this panel is a six-petaled flower, repeated three times against a background of roundels and swirling leaves and palmettes. A different abstract vegetal design appears within each petal. Although the decoration in every panel varies, each derives from the same basic forms.
The houses and other buildings in Nishapur were decorated with a variety of materials, including carved stucco and wall paintings. While some decoration emphasized abstract motifs, others—such as wall paintings—included figures. Excavations suggest that decoration changed frequently. In a bathhouse, for example, archaeologists discovered fifteen separate layers of painted designs.
The artist or craftsman who made this panel applied a thin layer of stucco (a form of plaster) to the wall, sketched its design on the surface, and then carved it by hand. Originally, panels such as this were painted in bright yellows, reds, and blues to accompany equally colorful murals on the plaster walls above. Once the excavated panels were exposed to air, the colors began to fade.