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The ups and downs of Persian Repoussage

Persian Repoussage dates back to at least five thousand years ago. Copper is the first metal discovered by man and the first metalworkers were Iranians. The Persian Repoussage is a kind of handicraft mainly because it is not among industries with massive or industrial productions. 

In fact, the Repoussage shops lined along the walk paths in the Isfahan, Shiraz and Kerman bazaars used to produce copper containers that people used them for cooking purposes. Each bazaar covered more than 60 Repoussage shops. However, after changes in Iranian lifestyles, this industry fell into disuse in cities. As a result, most Iranian families use Teflon, cast iron, zinc, ceramic and Pyrex dishes.

Copper dishes are not as applicable as they used to be. In fact, today Iranians mostly use these dishes to decorate the kitchen and the traditional parts of the house.

Persian Repoussage
Persian Repoussage

Persian Repoussage over the course of history

We can trace the history of Persian Repoussage from the objects that have found their ways into museums during centuries.

The discovery of two melting furnaces in the three thousand-year-old area of “Spidej” area in Sistan and Baluchestan also shows that then residents had mastered the art of Repoussage and metalworking in prehistoric times.

Mohammad Beheshti, an Iranian cultural heritage expert, believes that Repoussage has been commonly practiced in Iran since around 5,000 BC. In fact, archeological excavations have led to discovery of copper containers dating back to 6 thousand and 400 years ago.

Beheshti argues that this industry was common in the provinces of Khorasan, Isfahan, Tehran, Zanjan, Tabriz and Yazd. And it was a prosperous industry until the Islamic era. In most of the aforementioned cities, a bazaar named “Bazar-e Mesgarha” was dedicated to the activists of this art-industry. Unfortunately, the industry has fallen to decline over the last century, because of the decrease in copper applications in Iran. Although the crash of hammers hitting copper pots could still be heard in these bazaars, people rarely buy copper dishes.

Persian Repoussage
Persian Repoussage

Kerman, a Repoussage hub in Iran

Being situated in the vicinity of some copper mines, Kerman is one of the important copper dish production hubs for 5000 years. Repoussage industry is somehow peculiar to Kerman province. And craftsmen avoid from creating any dent on the surface of copper containers. Using an iron rod and a model, they just engrave some decorative motifs on the metal surface.

Interestingly, Kerman’s Repoussage industry dates back to several thousand years ago. In fact, the excavations carried out in Tal-i-Iblis, 17 kilometers south-east of Bardasir, revealed that the inhabitants used to melt copper. They did so in some preliminary melting furnaces to manufacture copper tools and containers about 6000 years ago. Other Archeological investigations and excavations carried out in Shahdad region also led to exploration of some older objects. And all these objects lead Archeologists to be sure about the existence of copper melting furnaces in the region.

Last but not least, Kerman Repoussage industry continued to develop from the Islamic era until the end of Safavid dynasty. However, in late safavid era, after importing European goods to Iran, metal industry started to fall into decline. And Repoussage industry deteriorated after the Qajar reign’s invasion. The damages Repoussage and metalworking industry sustained during these two periods could never be fully recovered again. 

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