The Legacy of Genghis Khan
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A New Visual Language
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While numerous artists and a great variety of artworks passed freely between eastern and western Asia, textiles seem to have played an especially pivotal role in generating a decidedly significant, innovative aesthetic in Ilkhanid Iran. Given the importance of luxury textiles to the Mongols and their evident presence in Iran, it is not surprising that textile designs and motifs—such as dragons, phoenixes, peonies, lotuses, and the use of landscape—are mirrored in so many aspects of Ilkhanid art and architectural decoration. Tiles, pottery, metalwork, and the arts of the book all reflect to varying degrees the impact of textile art.

If textiles did have an important part in the formulation of a new visual language in Iran, perhaps textile artists and their techniques may have also played a role in the dissemination of this language. Namely, the ascendancy of this medium may have quite literally brought with it a paper trail. Cartoons, drawings, or some form of graphic instructions almost certainly would have been necessary to produce the complex textiles preferred by the Mongols. Perhaps not coincidentally, it seems likely that drawings first became an important tool for the transmission and copying of compositions in Iran during the Ilkhanid period. It is possible that the emergence of drawings may have been initially connected with the new importance of textiles and their specific method of manufacture, which relied upon designs on paper.

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Canopy with Phoenixes detail
4   Tapestry Roundel detail
5   Phoenix Bowl detail
6   Mongol Archer detail
7   Lacquer Tray detail
8   Three Belt Plaques detail
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