• Mail usinfo@example.com
  • EventsView Upcoming Events

Minakari in Iran

Minakari in Iran

What is Mīnākārī:

Minakari or Enameling, the glorious Iranian handicraft

Minakari or Enameling is one of the most glorious Iranian handicrafts. It is the art of painting and designing the surface of metals such as gold, silver, and copper by glazing colors and fire in the furnace (Sometimes, it is done upon the glass or ceramics too.) According to the orientalist scholar Arthur Pope, Minakari dates back to 1500 B.C. Its practice on metal appeared during 600-400 B.C.

Minakari was invented in the era of the Sassanid dynasty (224 – 651 years).

Minakari is usually done on different utensils, such as vases and plates, picture frames, the doors and windows in holy shrines, jewelry, small decorative objects, and combined with Khatamkari, Miniature, Jewelry making, and other kinds of art. Different kinds of paints used in Minakari were taken from plants, minerals, and iron ore. Nowadays, chemical paints are often used. The craftsmen use gold, copper, and tin in combination with different chemical materials to make red, green, and yellow colors respectively.

It is available in different colors, such as azure blue, reddish-purple, green and yellow. But Isfahan Minakari is usually known by the colors of azure blue and turquoise or cyan.

There are two kinds of Minakari: Painted enamel, and Khanebandi (also called Charkhaneh).

most important Iranian enameling hub:

Isfahan is the most important Iranian enameling hub.

There are quite a few artists in Isfahan who produce enamels that are very exquisite.

At present, Isfahan is the center of Minakari in Iran. Most of the craftsmen do Minakari on gold the same style as the Qajar period. The most famous Isfahani master in enameling is Shokrollah Sani’zadeh who revived this invaluable art after World War I.

The most expensive and unique products are stored and exhibited in the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts. In the city bazaar of Isfahan, you can find the best examples of the minakari.

samples of ancient Iranian Enameling:

From among the samples of ancient Iranian Enameling, there are Sassanid plates discovered in Armenia, kept in Islamic Arts Museum, Berlin. One of the oldest samples of Minakari is a pair of earrings, discovered in Nahavand, dating back to 800-700 B.C. An Achaemenid gold armband ornamented with Minakari is exhibited in Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Minakari reached its peak at the time of the Seljuk period. Enameled brass dishes were common at that time and were exported to other neighboring countries too. During the Mongols period, Persian Minakari witnessed great changes, and the Arabic inscriptions turned into pictures of the garment and appearance of the Persian courtiers. At the time of Safavids, arabesque designs were added to the designs, and the red color was used more than ever. The prevalent designs were the royal banquets, hunting, and horse riding on the silver.

Process of Minakari:

The process of Minakari is as follows: First, the metal- nowadays usually copper- is shaped by the craftsman. Then, he covers it with a white glaze. Next, he puts the body into the furnace at a temperature of about 800˚ C, and recoats it with a higher quality glaze, and heats it again. This process is usually repeated three to four times. Now, the craftsman can design and paint the metal body. Finally, the craftsman sends the painted metal dish to the furnace to stabilize the color.

The different tools used during this process include furnace, pliers, press machine, very fine brush or pen, and so on.

Faces Behind the Work

The artisans that produce Meenakari work are called Meenakars, whose craft is hereditary and passed on from one generation to another. A single piece of a Meena work passes through several hands for perfection. The process involves various artisans with specific functions. The designers or the Nacquash, followed by the ‘Sonar’ or goldsmith create the initial design. Then comes the work of the ‘kalamkar’ or the one who engraves the designs and this is followed by the Meenakar or the enamelist. Then the product is polished by the ‘Ghotnawala’ or the polisher and passed to the ‘Kundansaaz’ or the stone setter. Lastly, it goes to the ‘Patua’ or the stringer. Each artisan is an important part of the chain that leads to the end product. Unfortunately, of late, skilled craftsmen have become rare due to which a single artisan has to perform several tasks.

From among the samples of ancient Iranian Enameling, there are Sassanid plates discovered in Armenia, kept in Islamic Arts Museum, Berlin. One of the oldest samples of Minakari is a pair of earrings, discovered in Nahavand, dating back to 800-700 B.C. An Achaemenid gold armband ornamented with Minakari is exhibited in Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Different Types Of The Persian Minakari Art

Based on the way they perform the art, there are different types of Minakari.

Minakari With Embossed Background

In this type of enamel, they engrave the drawings and lines on the desired object. Then they fill the gaps with colored glazes. And as the last step, they place it in a furnace for fixing the colors.

Minakari With Wires

Wire Minakari is an old method in which they use very thin wires. The artist shapes the wires to whatever pattern he has in mind. And then glue them to the workpiece. In the third step, he uses a glaze to cover it. To weld the wires, he puts the object in a furnace at a temperature of about 1000 Celcius Degrees. In the next step, he uses special enamel powder dues to cover the surface. And then again he puts it in the furnace for another 3 minutes at the same temperature. Naturally, during the process, the wires turn black. So to restore them to their original state he uses acid.

This kind of Minakari is common in Isfahan and Tehran. One of the types of this method, “black Mina”, is still ongoing in the south of the country, especially in Ahvaz. Anyway, nowadays, Minakari with wires are not so popular. Instead, Naqqashi Minakari has way more fans.

Naqqashi Mina

Naqqashi is the Persian word for painting. Painting Mina is common in Isfahan. First, the blacksmith shapes the object which is usually copper, to the desired design. Second, Mina masters put a white glaze all over it. Glazing is repeated three to four times. And each time they put the object in a furnace with up to 700 degrees. This causes the glaze to find a solid color. The object turns white and then the painting operation begins. After repainting, it is ready to go back to the furnace again. This time the temperature would be about 400 to 500 degrees to fixate the colors.

Dyes in Minakari

Today they use herbal, mineral dyes, and also metal complex dyes for the painting part in Minakari art. In the original Minakari, they used powder dyes with a low melting temperature. To make the dyes they combine the metal oxides with certain types of salts. They use a mixture of Arabic gum solution and glycerin as a dye solvent.

Yellow is a result of iron and chromium oxide combination plus tin. Red is a combination of lead chromate and copper by adding borax to sodium carbonate and gold. The intensity of the color depends on the temperature degree and the time they stay in the furnace.

What makes Minakari products so special?

A lot of precision and taste goes into making a piece of mina object. A piece of mina has to be shaped according to the design that will later on be imprinted on it with the hands of an artist. Moreover, it has to be made durable as the heat itself can ruin the object or make the designs fall apart from the product. This is why Minakari objects are considered as types of art that are used as decorations or taken out of Iran as souvenirs.

Minakari is the product of eyes that see the depth of the skies, admire the beauty of the world around and capture the harmony of the heavens and the earth in one piece.

leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *