Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/204

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175
PERSIA.

doubtful whether there is a single statue in the whole kingdom.

In their paintings, nature and taste are always violated. They sacrifice grace and expression to brilliancy of colouring: they have some little knowledge of light and shade, but know nothing of perspective. It is no common thing in a Persian painting to see a man nearly as tall as a mountain; or in their representations of a battle, a line of guns, on which is formed a line of infantry, and over that a line of cavalry. The Persian artists are nevertheless very happy at catching a likeness, and paint portraits better than any thing else. Those who paint landscapes generally study some daub sent out from England, or perhaps from China; and these they look upon as masterpieces. They give the preference to our figures, but consider the colouring of the Chinese as much superior.

It is in the decoration of walls and ceilings, that their talents are most conspicuous. Their paintings commonly represent some subject of ancient history, such as the achievements of Roustam, the loves of Shireen and Khosru, or remarkable actions of princes of modern times. Their only merit consists in furnishing faithful likenesses of the persons whom they portray; as works of art, they are quite contemptible, merely exhibiting a confused multitude of disproportioned figures of men and horses intermingled in the most ridiculous manner.

In architecture, as well as sculpture, the ancient Persians surpassed their descendants. Such at least is the opinion we are authorized to form by the ruins of Persepolis, Shuster, and Kendjaver, and the remains of the palace of Khosru, and the ancient Ctesiphon. The principal architectural works of the present day are the domes and minarets of the mosques. The ceilings and the domes are so rich and so exquisitely finished as to excite astonishment, and it is frequently the case that more labour and expense are bestowed on the decoration of a ceiling than on all the rest of the edifice to which it belongs.

The most magnificent of the remains of antiquity in Persia, from which some inference may be drawn respecting the state of architecture in that country two or three thousand years ago, are indisputably the ruins of Persepolis. They are situated in the plain of Merdasht, one of the most fertile in Persia, to the left of the road leading from Ispahan to Shiraz. Let the reader figure to himself the side of a mountain of the hardest marble, presenting an unequal area or platform, 1200 feet in length and 1690 in depth, cut perpendicularly, and surrounded with a wall faced with marble, 4000 feet in circumference. Let the imagination place on this terrace porticoes, columns, walls, flights of steps, the whole of marble, without any apparent mixture of