Infinity of Image and Finite of Word in Sasanian Relief

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Head of Department History of art/ Institute of art's studies and academic research

2 Research Deputy Office/ Institute of art's Studies and academic Research


Sasanian reliefs are very important in the study of not only the art history but also the state, society, religion and politics of this era. This article tries to study the relationship between word and image in the Sasanian reliefs that contain inscription and figures. The data in this article is collected in documentation method, and the research is done in descriptive and analytical method.
First of all language, image and their relationship are defined and then eight Sasanian reliefs which have both word and image are studied: Ardaxšīr at Naqš-i Rostam, Bandiyān-i Dargaz in Xorāsān-i Razavi, Barm-i Delak at east of Šīrāz, Bahrām I at Tang-i Čogān in Kāzerūn, Šāpūr I at Tang- i Čogān in Kāzerūn, Šāpūr I at Naqš-i Rajab, Bahrām II at south of Kāzerūn, Šāpur I at Naqš-i Rostam. These reliefs have both the text and the image but the conformity between words and image would lead us to an incomplete method and it seems that happens in the related studies till now because for interpreting the image we rely on the texts, while as we could see in these reliefs the images have more messages in comparison to the text and each part could be interpreted separately. For example, the size of figures, the type of weapons, clothes and tools, the ornaments, their gestures, their look, the signs of glory, their context and so many other factors could be considered as symbols and they must be interpreted in different layers. It is obvious that everyone is not able to read the inscriptions and if someone could do that, s/he sees the image at first and be influenced by it and also as we will study the texts in these reliefs only give us the general information.
So we could say that in these frames the images have several layers of meaning that the first one is related to that period and the other layers have a timeless and infinity message but the texts are timed and finite therefore we should choose two different approaches for interpreting these two parts in each Sasanian relief. It seems that the images have timeless and infinite messages because of their mythological and ceremonial meaning but the same is not true for inscriptions and they refer to some specific subject and for understanding it, in addition to know its language the familiarity with the political, social and religious history of that period is necessary. The signs of power and glory of the kings could be seen in these images and also they depict the kings who have Farrah and are victorious and protected by gods and these messages are timeless so It seems that the viewer could have a very close understanding from images due to the signs which are infinite and timeless. Although in these reliefs the image and word are in one frame and they make an image together but these two parts are quite different functions which should be considered in our interpretations.


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