The art of decorating the surface of objects like a mosaic, with small triangles is called Inlaying or as the Persians call it “Khatam”.
The various designs of Khatam have always been in the form of regular geometric shapes. These geometric shapes are embossed by placing small triangles next to each other.
These triangles are made of wood, metal, and bone. The smaller and finer the triangles, the better the inlay is. In an inlay design, at least three triangles are used to make the smallest geometric unit and up to four hundred triangles for the largest.
Inlaid work is so deep and serious that scholars have one opinion about its origin and those who consider inlaid work strange and powerful, which is highly dependent on elegance and precision, have another opinion. The time of the beginning of this art is not known, and what is said about it is associated with the myth. Some master calligraphers still believe that the art of calligraphy is the miracle of the Prophet Abraham.
It is more seemingly that in Iran, before the advent of Islam, a kind of inlay was common and its method was such that cubes of solid color were cut into sides of four millimeters and installed and nailed on a plate with various designs, and this method lasted for several centuries.
This art has found its way to Iran in a modern way before Safavid and during the Mongol conquest of Iran and following the emergence of a direct relationship between Iran and China.
Some other scholars also believe that Khatam was founded during the Daylamites period in Iran and the city of Shiraz, then reached its peak when the Safavid claimed the throne.
On one hand, the government-supported artists and on the other established trade relations with countries near and far. This helped the Khatam industry to grow.
At present, there is an inlaid pulpit in Jameh Mosque of Atigh in Shiraz, which has been built for more than a thousand years.
This art has two main stages:
One: Inlay making, which includes operations such as inlay design, preparation of materials and cutting of primary materials, composition, and creation of flowers, and finally making a frame (rectangular cube body with an average length of 40 cm and a width of 10 cm and a diameter of 3 cm Made of wood or inlay) and cut it and prepare the inlay layer.
Two: Inlay work, which includes the design of the substructure, the design of sticking the inlay layers on the substructure, polishing and polishing the inlay objects.
In inlaying, the wood, bone, or metal is cut into triangle prisms and placed together so that the cross-section of these single triangles has regular geometric shapes, then the thin sections are cut in order. They are specially arranged on a thin sheet of wood and after drying, the sheets are installed on the objects needed for decoration.
Khatam in Shiraz
Shiraz is a city that is famous for its elegance and precision in the art of inlay work. The best examples of inlay work and the most capable masters of this art should be found in Shiraz.
The quality of the inlay depends on the small role and regularity of the design. The finer and more regular the design, the better and more valuable the effect of the produced inlay is. It is interesting to know that from the beginning to this stage, more than 400 work steps are done.
The first works of inlay work in Iran were found in Shiraz and the art of inlay work in Iran originated from Shiraz.
During this year, Shiraz Artists Hall, using their many years of experience, has been able to leave beautiful and lasting works, so that now Shiraz inlay is one of the most prestigious inlays in the whole world.
The substructures on which the art of Shiraz inlaying is usually done are wood and copper, and most of the inlay products are currently inlaid on copper and inlaid on wood.
The art of inlaying was common and performed only in Shiraz before the Safavid period, and Shiraz inlaying was famous in Iran.
When the Safavids took power in Iran, the art of Shiraz inlay was transferred to Isfahan, and Isfahani artists welcomed this art.
The point is that this art is so in demand that some people sacrifice quantity for quality in making it. A good inlay should have the following characteristics:
The work surface should be smooth and no inlay space should be empty. Uniformity of colors and materials used in making the inlay. There should be no change in the color and shape. Restorations and putties are not specified at the work level. The symmetry of all flowers and shapes on the work surface and angles and sides. Accuracy and engineering of the basis and structure of the design that all dimensions are the same, symmetrical and the same size, of course, if the design chassis is not accurate, even the best inlay does not have a facade and effect and destroys the whole design is why. That an inlay artist must also be a master carpenter.
Painting and coating the product must be skillful and without defects and defects.
To sum it up, the smaller the roles and triangles, the higher the quality and value of the work.
The most famous inlays of Safavid Iran are the most brilliant ones:
The shrine of Imamzadeh Seyyid Ala Al-Din Hussein, son of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Shiraz and in the Khatam pair of the tomb, which is 400 to 450 years old.
The Khatam mirror frame, dated 1124 AH. made in Kerman and is part of the private collection of the late Mohammad Hossein Sani Khatam.
The box of the shrine of Musa al-Kadhim and Imam Javad (AS) in Samarra and also the box of the shrine of Narges Khatun, the dear mother of Mohammad al-Jawad in Samarra, which was built during the reign of Shah Sultan Hussein Safavid with the help of the Master of Khatam masterpieces of that time, Jafar.
During the Qajar period, the entrance to the treasury and shrine of Abd al-Azim al-Hasani and the entrance to the Museum of Ancient Iran in the Pahlavi period, before the revolution, were all Khatam.