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Samarkand, the capital of the Timurid kingdom, was its art center as well: remains of grand buildings were exposed there. Earthenware and metalware from this early period are rare, but it appears that the potters produced tiles for covering the exteriors of buildings. The black or blue decorations on a white background – calligraphy or plant designs – recall Chinese porcelain.
It was not until the beginning of the 15th century, however, that Timurid art began to assume the characteristics associated with it. A school of painting developed in Herat, the new dynastic capital. Artists produced splendid manuscripts and delicate paintings, clearly influenced by Chinese art. Another school, which developed at the same time in Shiraz, specialized in fanciful landscapes in shades of pale blue, pink, gray and white.
With the rise of the Safavids, Iran was again under native Persian rule. Shah Ismail I, who began his reign in 1502, united Iran. A strong Persian culture emerged, reaching its golden age under Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) in the revived capital of Isfahan.
There is an obvious Far Eastern influence on Safavid ceramics. In the cities of Kerman and Mashhad, potters produced ceramics from a material that resembled porcelain, with a turquoise or green glaze, or decorated with Chinese motifs, like dragons, sand birds, cranes or lotus flowers, in blue on a white background.
Later, an Iranian-Safavid iconography developed, which included pictures of young women and men. The Safavid potters established a reputation for their high-quality glazed tiles, made in a variety of colors.
Safavid painting was influenced by the Herat school. When the Safavids rose to power, the Herat artists were exiled to Tabriz, where they continued the realistic art of their hometown. At the same time, a new tradition of drawing and portraiture made its appearance.