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Na῾in

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Na῾in

Town in central Iran. Na῾in lies on the edge of the central desert to the east of Isfahan on the route from Qum to Yazd. The town has two buildings of architectural importance: the congregational mosque and a ruined palace. The mosque has been much rebuilt, but the original foundation can be dated c.960 on the basis of its hypostyle plan and stucco decoration; it is one of the earliest congregational mosques to survive in Iran (see Architecture, §V, A, 1). It has a small court surrounded by arcades and a roof supported by barrel vaults that are pointed with a noticeable stilt. A minaret with a square base and a tapering octagonal shaft is set in the southeast corner. The mihrab and the six bays around it are richly revetted with carved stucco. Motifs include vine scrolls, rosettes and acanthus typical of the Beveled style of carving associated with the Abbasid capital at Samarra and inscriptions in foliated kufic script framing the arches and bays. The piers on the qibla side of the court are decorated with small bricks laid in relief in diamond, zigzag and other geometric patterns. This style of brickwork is also found in the restorations to the congregational mosque at Isfahan done under the Buyids (r. 932–1062), and this suggests that, as at Isfahan, the court façade of the mosque at Na῾in was redone soon after its construction. The three bays in front of the mihrab are covered by domical vaults, which may have been rebuilt later, perhaps at the same time that the fine wooden minbar was donated by a local merchant in 1311.

The two-story palace in Na῾in has been dated c.1560 on the style of the painted decoration, and it is one of the earliest examples of secular architecture built by the Safavids (r. 1501–1732) to survive (see Architecture, §VII, B, 1). It has a sunken courtyard with two iwans on each of the longer façades. The largest iwan has intricate squinch-net vaulting rising from blind niches; both the stellate vaults and the niches are covered with figural designs of white stucco cut away to reveal a dark ground (see fig.). The traces of color that survive may be later. The scenes depicted, such as events from Persian poetry, enthroned royal couples, polo matches, banquets and the hunt, are typical of Safavid book painting (see Illustration, §VI, A), while the vaults are decorated with chinoiserie themes of dragons, phoenixes and flying ducks.

Na῾in

Na῾in, interior vaults in the Safavid palace, c. 1560; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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Bibliography

  • H. Viollet and S. Flury: “Un Monument des premiers siècles de l’hégire en Perse,” Syria, ii (1921), pp. 226–34, 305–16
  • S. Flury: “La Mosquée de Nāyin,” Syria, xi (1930), pp. 43–58
  • M. B. Smith: “The Wood Mimbar in the Masdid-i D–ami῾, Nāīn,” A. Islam., v (1938), pp. 21–35
  • A. U. Pope and P. Ackerman, eds.: Survey of Persian Art (Oxford, 1938–9, rev. Shiraz, 2/1964–7), pp. 934–9
  • I. Luschey-Schmeisser: “Der Wand- und Deckenschmuck eines safavidischen Palastes in Nayin,” Archäol. Mitt. Iran, n. s., ii (1969), pp. 183–92
  • I. Luschey-Schmeisser: “Ein neuer Raum in Nayin,” Archäol. Mitt. Iran, v (1972), pp. 309–14
  • R. Hillenbrand: “Studi in Onore di Ugo Monneret de Villard (1881–1954), Riv. Studi Orient., lix (1985), pp. 1–4
  • S. S. Blair: The Monumental Inscriptions from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana (Leiden, 1992), no. 9
  • B. Finster: Frühe Iranische Moscheen (Berlin, 1994), pp. 67–9, 209–22
  • T. Sabahi: “Flowers of the Desert: The Carpets of Nain,” Ghereh, vi (1995), pp. xvii–xxii, Eng. trans. of “Fiori del deserto: I tappeti di Nain,” pp. 17–22
  • S. R. Canby: The Golden Age of Persian Art (London, 1999), pp. 70–72
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