The interior of the shrine has some remarkable paintings. According to tradition Muhammad expressly forbade the use of images of animate beings but this seems to have had little effect amongst the Iranians and Mughuls who excelled in miniatures of every kind.

In spite of this there are few remaining paintings in Isfahan. Many, such as those in the palaces of 'Ali Qapu and Chehel Sotoon have been badly defaced in the past although efforts are now being made to restore them, others, such as those on the bridge of Si-o-Seh Pol, which so greatly shocked the 19th century british traveller, Sir William Ousely, and the murals on the entrance to the bazaar have all but disappeared.

The entrance to the shrine itself has a pair of paintings on either side of it. One shows Muhammad, his face veiled out of respect, accompanied by a bearded figure who is probably 'Ali ibn-e-Talebi, his Son-in-Law. It is not clear who the third figure in the striped robe is.

On either side of the spandrels are a pair of somewhat androgynous angels blowing trumpets whose translucent blouses leave little to the imagination, a feature, which was presumably shows the growing influence of Europaean traditions and styles.

Laure Morgenstern in his contribution to Pope's encyclopaediac survey of Iranian Art states that "no didactic religious painting is known in Persia until after the Safavid period, early mosque and madrasa mural decoration being limited to geometrical and plant motifs with Quranic inscriptions." although no firm date exists for these paintings they seem integral to, and contemporary with, the building and the present author suggests they were largely influenced by the iconography of the Christian churches which were being built at that time in Jolfa, and which depict scenes of martyrdom and torture of a particularly sadistic nature with considerable attention to detail. There is no doubt that these latter paintings stem from the time of the Safavids and it is quite possible that these paintings are contemporary with them.

There is some excellent tilework below the dado inside the shrine, which is of an unusually flowing nature.


Last Updated: Monday, February 08, 1999