Artwork Details

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian


Mirror, reverse-glass painting, and plaster on wood
63 x 63 x 6 inches
Level 3
Accession Number
Museum Purchase, Wege Fund
Image Copyright
© Monir Farmanfarmaian

About the Artwork

Monir Farmanfarmaian gained recognition internationally for her beautiful and complex fusions of Islamic and Western cultures, prompting one curator to call her, a role model for the artist of the twenty-first century.” 

Farmanfarmaian was creating amazing artworks in her studio right up until the end of her life. Many of the mirror-mosaic sculptures in her 2018 exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum were created in the past ten years. This sculpture, Tir, now part of GRAM’s permanent collection, was part of that exhibition, which paired Farmanfarmaian’s work with Anila Quayyum Agha’s Intersections. Tir is one of the artist’s Convertibles, so named because she designed their separate elements to combine in a variety of different arrangements. 

Farmanfarmaian lived in both Iran and the United States throughout her life. In the 1970s, she began creating mirrored geometric sculptures that combined traditional Arabic geometric arrangements and Modern abstract forms and concepts. The art of mirror mosaic in Iran originated in the 17th century, when the wealthy began importing mirrors from Venice, Italy. Mirrors that cracked in transit broke into fragments that were salvaged by area craftsmen, who began incorporating them into their work. Out of this was born a tradition of cutting mirrors into small shapes and slivers and setting them in decorative patterns into plaster. The thin stripes and shaped areas of color within her mirror mosaic sculptures are created by a process called reverse glass painting, which was introduced to Iran from Italy. For this technique, paint is applied directly to a sheet of clear glass, then viewed from the reverse side. The effect of looking at paint through the glass adds depth and brilliance to its color.

Farmanfarmain updated these centuries-old techniques in her art. Working from her detailed models and instructions, master artisans in her studio cut forms and strips from thin sheets of mirror, then fit the pieces onto the varying surfaces of a wooden understructure coated with plaster, which fixes them in place.