What is the art of Meena Kari?

The Art of Meena kari or miniature of fire is one of the world known handicrafts in Iran. Meena Kari art work is the mixture of glazed metal painted by bright colors. According to Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of the Young Journalists, Meena kari is a multi-thousand-year-old art in which extraordinary and eye-catching works created. creatures that are not from the earth! But what history is really hidden behind this magical art?


The art of Meena Kari or enamel work, with a history of about 5,000 years that is underneath handicraft industry. Nowadays the art of Meena Kari is mostly done on copper, but it can also be done on gold and silver. Gold is the only metal that does not oxidize when the enamel melts, so it allows a more detailed design on enamel, while enamels on silver and copper do not have this quality. Enamel formation is also a combination of metal oxides and some sorts of salts at high temperatures (750°C to 850°C) where colors formed over time and based on temperature.

Center of Meena Kari

Nowadays in Iran, the production center of Meena Kari is Isfahan city, and there are many outstanding masters in the production of enamel works in this city. The background color of patterns is usually blue, green, and sometimes red, which is reminiscent of the beautiful color of blue of the sky if you look at the enameled dishes in an art view. Perhaps this is why the name of this art called enamel.

Meena Kari in Iran
Meena Kari in Iran

History of the art of Meena Kari

Actually Meena is female name in Iranian culture and it has same meaning like Minoo and refer to the color of heaven. Some experts believe that Iranian has used Meena for ornamenting their houses from Sassanian era. During Mongols era, Art of Meena Kari spread to other countries like India. During Safavid era, this art work improved in a way that a French Tourist, Jean Chardin, who came to Iran during Safavid dynasty, and made a reference about the art of Meena kari of Isfahan. This list included the shape of painting and the colors. He stated that they used green, blue, yellow and red light for the background and at last paint floral and animal pattern for designing the dishes. Fortunately some of dishes which are made in Isfahan at that time kept in Iran and abroad museums.

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Iranian Meena kars (Those who create Meena) design Meena dishes based on their taste. In the past, artists used gold for enameling, but these days they prefer using copper and silver. For instance, they used gold Meena in holy shrine as chandeliers. Technically gold holds enamel better, lasts longer. A later introduction, silver, used for artifacts like spoons, bowls, etc.

Know more about the art of Meena Kari

This art of Meena Kari is a mixture of fire and soil that blends with the art of painting and creates beautiful patterns. According to some evidence, and after matching Byzantine glazes with Iranian works, this art formed in Iran and then moved to other countries. In Europe, of course, archaeologists have found some works with a long history. For example, six golden rings dating back to thirteen centuries BC found in Cyprus, an example of tin enamel. The famous statue of Zeus also found in Greece dates back to 500 years BC. In excavations at Nahavand, a pair of golden earrings have found that date back to the seventh to eighth centuries BC.

One of these ancient examples is an armband of gold with ornaments on it dating back to the Achaemenid era. The monument is preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London now. The culmination of this art was in the Seljuk period, which making enamel and brass dishes was popular, and it was also sent to neighboring countries. One of the most notable examples of this period is the Arsalan Tray Alb, an enamel on silver that kept at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This work made by a professor named Hassan al-Kashani and its name engraved on the Kufic script.

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The Sassanid plates found in Armenia are housed at the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and at the New York Metropolitan Museum, are examples of Iranian enamel artifacts. There are also other works of Iranian paintings in the St.Petersburg Armitage Museum and the British and French Museums.

Introducing the art of Meena Kari Types

In terms of production method, enamel divided into two categories:
Housing enamel is an old-fashioned way, also known as “wired enamel,” with very thin wires. They remove the wires as desired and glue them onto the work piece with a glass glaze over them. They then place it in an oven at about 1000°C and then wires welded to the work piece. Next, they apply the powder-based paints that are in powder form to the work surface. After the work surface becomes smooth, they put it in an oven at a temperature of about 1000 degrees for 3 minutes. The brass rods are then blackened in the furnace and must be returned to their original state by acid treatment. Housing enamel was common in Isfahan and Tehran, but the only enamel workshop now is at the Cultural Heritage Research Institute teaches this art.

“Black enamel” is a type of “housing enamel”, also known as “solid enamel”. This method of potting is mainly done in the south of the country, especially in Ahvaz.


What is Meena Kari or Enamel Painting?

The method used today in Isfahan is that the enamel patterns formed on a transparent glaze. For this purpose, for the enameling, the master of copper first makes the object according to the design, and then the enamel master painted it with white glaze. The glazing step is performed three or four times and each time it is placed in the oven with a degree of 700 degrees heat to stabilize the glaze color. Then the painting done on this white object, and the object goes back to the oven each time to be cooked to about 400 degrees to 500 degrees in a way that colors becomes the desired colors. Chemical colors are now used in object painting, while in the past the applied colors were herbal or mineral.

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Enamel transparency is also obtained from the presence of tin oxide, but in the old-fashioned enamel, which is now used by master Alireza Parvazi, they first heat the enamel material obtained from silica and metal chains. The enamel is then welded to the metal and then pattern painted in glass and then melted.

Art of Meena Kari

Items needed:

Pen for coloring and painting
Handmade brushes made by your own.
Powder for paints (powder)
Pug gum
Glazed copper dish in custom design

Enamel painting is a brilliant art of fire and soil with baked paintings dating back to 1500 BC. Studies show that enameling was first created in Iran and more than anywhere else, and its history goes back to the Parthian and Sassanian periods.
The prevalence of potting industry in Isfahan dates back to Pahlavi period and has been extensively developed over the last thirty years by the artist Mr. Shakrollah Sennizadeh.

Naturally transparent enamel derives its transparency from tin oxide. The enamel is done on copper. To provide the enamel, first and foremost they form the object they want to enamel in desired size and form by an expert, and when enamel has been manufactured, the enameler gives it a white glaze. Usually three to four times the enamel will be glazed. Each time the object goes into the furnace under the temperature about 700° C until the color of its glaze is fixed, then painted with different colors on it.
The object goes back into the furnace under 400 to 500 degrees to turn the colors in a good look.

How the Art of Meena Kari Crafted

The art of Meena Kari or enamel working is one of the well known crafts in the world. This art knows as colored metal glazed. Meena Kars stabilize Meena by baking them on heat.  Although this course is of abundant use industrially for producing metal and hygienic dishes, it has been paid high attention by painters, goldsmiths and metal engravers since long times ago.
Fortunately there are some artists in Isfahan who do the Art of Meena Kari yet. there is a great works and you can find them in vicinity of Naqsh e-Jahan Square.

The art of Meena Kari
The art of Meena Kari