The Art of Tilework
As an art, tilework is one of the valuable and sublime arts used for decoration in Iranian architecture from the ancient time to the present. This art has extensively been used for the beauty of the exteriors and interiors of religious buildings, mausoleums, mosques and bridges over various historical periods. This practical art used for fortification and beautification of buildings and monuments dates back to the second millennium B.C. and Iranian artists have been familiar with making adobes and glazed bricks since the ancient time. The glazed bricks in green, yellow and brown with human and plant designs have been used as tiles.
During the Achaemenides period, square-shaped bricks were produced at the very place that the building was constructed. They were brownish and followed a particular style called Moaqeli. In some of the buildings of that period, traces of bricks and tiles could be seen. Monuments remaining from the Achaemenides period allude to the peak of this craft and art and one can assume that the technology was prosperous at that time. Achaemenides palaces in Persepolis and Susa are prime examples of tilework and glazed bricks.
Tiles were made during the reign of Parthians, too.
Due to the ongoing wars, pottery production remained stagnant during the Arsacid period. The art of tile-making did not receive that much attention during this period and the Arsacid rulers used drawings for decoration rather than tiles.
Tile-making became prosperous during the Sassanians period. Some pretty and elegant buildings came into being by artists. During the Sassanians period, the art of Achaemenides emerged and prospered although it was in the form of imitation. Tilework of Achaemenides became common in its old style and with thicker glazing during the rule of Sassanians. Numerous examples of these tiles whose glazing was one centimeter in thickness was found in the explorations in Firoozabad and Bishapur. During the Sassanians period, the art of making mosaic gained popularity in addition to the tilework. Two eastern and western courts of Bishapur have been covered by mosaic in various colors, floral decorations and pictures of birds and human beings.
The tilework is one of the attractive methods of decorative architecture in all of the Islamic territories. Together with fresco and stucco, the tilework brings about numerous colors and designs for mosques, mausoleums, palaces and private mansions. Apparently, tiles have been used in proportion to construction materials of every region considering internal or external use and they have become more mature as a complementary element to the beauty of the brick architecture. The history of the Islamic tile work dates back to the 9th century A.D. It is worth mentioning that prior to the advent of Islam, the tilework was an ancient practice in Egypt and the Near East. The glazed tiled were used in Egypt since the rule of the Third Dynasty of Egypt.