Persian Khatam; An Ancient Persian Technique of Inlaying

Persian Khatam; An Ancient Persian Technique of Inlaying

Inlaid work

Persian Khatam is one of the Persian arts of marquetry wherein the surface of wooden or metallic articles is decorated with pieces of wood, bone and metal cut in a variety of shapes and designs. Materials used in this craft can be gold, silver, brass, aluminum and twisted wire. Various types of inlaid articles and their quality are known by the size and geometrical designs. Smaller pieces result in a higher value of the artwork.

This craft consists in the production of incrustation patterns (generally star-shaped), with thin sticks of wood (ebony, teak, ziziphus, orange, rose), brass (for golden parts), camel bones (white parts). Ivory, gold or silver can also be used for collection objects. These sticks are assembled in triangular beams, assembled and glued in a strict order to create a geometrical motif such as a six-branch star included in a hexagon.


History of Persian Khatam

There is no evidence to determine the exact date of Khatam-Kari. The oldest available samples of Persian Khatam art belong to Safavid period. Inlaid articles in the Safavid era took on a special significance, as artists used this art on doors, windows, mirror frames, Qur’an boxes, pen and penholders, lanterns and tombs.

Usage Things

The ornamentation of the doors of holy places predominantly consists of inlaid motifs. These specimens can be observed in the cities of Mashhad, Qom, Shiraz and Rey. The famous case placed in Imam Ali’s shrine is one of the masterpieces of Khatam art done by Shiraz masters and has been left from Safavid age. Another example of Persian Khatam is some parts of the Monabat Case of Sheikh Safi al-Din’s Shrine in Ardebil. In the Safavid era, the art of marquetry flourished in the southern cities of Iran, especially in Isfahan, Shiraz and Kerman.

Persian Khatam, which is one of the definitive masterpieces of this art, was awarded the first prize and a gold medal in an art exposition in Brussels. This desk is now preserved in the National Museum of Washington. Also, in some royal buildings, doors and various items have been inlaid. The inlaid-ornamented rooms in Sa’dabad and Marble Palace in Tehran are among masterpieces of this art.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, khatamkari declined, before being stimulated under the reign of Reza Shah, with the creation of art schools in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. Persian Khatam can be used on Persian miniature, realizing true work of art, this craft existed for more than 700 years and is still practiced in Shiraz and Isfahan.


Current Status

Currently, this art is being practiced in Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran. Inlay masters, preserving the nobility of their art, have brought forth great innovations in this fine art.

Woodcarving is one of the outstanding Iranian arts, which require dexterity and artistic skills. It provides wood, ivory or bone in simple or complex shapes for use in khatamkari. Excellent specimens can be found in historical mosques, palaces and buildings. Some of the Iranian inlaid works are preserved in museums at home or abroad. Images of leaves, flowers, birds and animals predominate. Latticed woodwork, which developed later into an exquisite art, is also manually made by craftsmen. Old latticed doors and windows of Iran are famous.

Among other artworks, sudorific inlaid work can be mentioned. In this kind of inlaid work, the artist strictly avoids protrusions on the wood surface. The images carved on natural wood of various colors are finely inlaid. After the application of a fine finish, an even surface is produced. The art of inlaid and sudorific woodwork is supported by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization. These arts are also practiced in private workshops.


Khatam Kari Art Works

Bagher Hakim-Elahi was a master of this art and learned the techniques from Master Sanee Persian Khatam in Shiraz. Later in life, he moved to Tehran, and continued making Khatam master pieces, currently in museums in Iran. He also taught the art to his younger brother Asadolah Hakim-Elahi.

At Maison Termeh, we value ancient artistry and we hope to support and hopefully preserve this heritage for our future generations.