Colors and images narrate Ashura

February 6, 2006
TEHRAN -- The Reza Abbasi Museum is hosting an exhibition of teahouse paintings on the theme of Ashura (the day Imam Hussein {AS} and his 72 companions were martyred) for the entire month of Muharram, which ends on March 1.

Each painting consists of several square pieces. Each square has a particular color and form, which, in combination with the other pieces, depicts the theme of the work.

Paintings in this style once played the role of television by entertaining people who gathered in teahouses.

Teahouse paintings narrate religious and historical events, depicting scenes of the self-sacrifice of the companions of Imam Hussein (AS) in Karbala and the epic stories of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh.

Works by Hossein Qollar-Aqassi, Mohammad Modabber, and other master teahouse painters are on display in the exhibition.

“The museum has a perfect collection of teahouse paintings. However, we can’t put them on display permanently due to space limitations,” museum curator Batul Ahmadi said.

Some Iranian artists believe that teahouse painting is similar to miniature since it makes use of the imagination.

The face plays a very important role in conveying messages and feelings so teahouse painters must draw people’s faces with great care.

The paintings being displayed in the Reza Abbasi Museum also depict simple and clear images. In some of them the artists even wrote the name of each person above the image to make the theme clearer.

Another interesting point is the common background of all the works, which suggests sunset.

Although the antiquity of the art form is not clear, there are teahouse paintings that date back to the 18th century.

Unfortunately, teahouse painting has fallen into oblivion since traditional teahouses became obsolete. There are only a few enthusiasts of the art form, but they are making efforts to keep it alive.

The Reza Abbasi Museum is located on Shariati St. in the Seyyed Khandan neighborhood.