A Semiological Analysis of Naser al-Din Shah's Portrait on the First Iranian Banknote (As a Pictorial Text & A New Dimension of Iranian Graphics)
Semiotics, as a text-analyzing method, among others, studies semiotic systems to infer overt and covert implications of signs. It seems that during Naser al-Din Shah's monarchy, semiotic system succeeded in making the desired nature of its own using new tools of promotion such as banknotes which were the product of the advent of modernity in Iran. On the other hand, as this pictorial text combined textual and pictorial signs, it paved the way for the emergence of a new branch in the Iranian graphic design called 'banknote design'.  However, banknote was introduced in Iran almost a century after it became popular in the world and after Nasser al-Din Shah's return from his third trip to Europe. But apparently, from the very beginning, this visual text served as an appropriate context for the King's propaganda campaign. Supporting such claim is possible through analyzing it using approaches such as semiotics, because in general, the main focus of the studies conducted so far on the subject have been limited to examining its historical and artistic aspects including photography, without endeavoring to explore its explicit and implicit implications. Therefore, some researches must be conducted that apart from the above, are able to discover the intent behind using the image of Nasser al-Din Shah on Iran's first paper currency. Through the application of one of the practices of semiotics called 'the Pierce trilogy pattern', new data of the unknown dimensions of the subject can be obtained, because if studied through semiotics, that its broadest meaning is the study of forms of formation and the exchange of meaning on the basis of sign systems,  the meanings conveyed through the printing of this visual element could be identified. However, a more accurate analysis reveals that due to the visual nature of the the design of banknotes, it is recognized as a physical phenomenon. However, this not absolute because this text, like other ones, has constantly fused with the implications which play a covert, yet practical role in reading its text. Such has happened to the extent that it has affected the original formula and its literal meaning in the name of paper money. Nonetheless, Barthes 'anchor theory' can be employed to avoid the floating of various meanings and concepts of this visual symbol and image and thus stabilize the multi-semantic feature of the language, because through reading the figures or other information written on the banknotes of this era, their economic value could be determined. Yet based on the fact that semiotics is phenomenally textual, that is in every action, an objective communication is formed according to its comprising implications and that's why it's open, not closed. Hence, based on this open process, the design, printing and overall production of banknotes contains the image of Nasser al-Din Shah during the Qajar era were not just meant to produce some valuable piece of paper because otherwise, its meaning would have just served as a sign or its explicit meaning and doesn't serve other intertextual implications or other tacit notions. Therefore, the paper at hand intends to examine multiple implications of this pictorial text and its signs. Semiotics comprise of different approaches including reading and analyzing artistic texts. In fact, as a narrative analysis of texts, this method of study emphasizes on the role of the semiotic context in shaping meaning through examining signs as constructive wholes and also seeks to discover their hidden and implicit meanings. Accordingly, in order to conduct a proper analysis of the subject matter in this article, Pierce's three-dimensional model has been taken from among a wide range of tools. Pierce introduced his paradigm of sign in the three aspects of form, interpretation, and subject. Based on this pattern, it seems that a note, reflecting the image of Nasser al-Din Shah, is an interpretation, because interpretation is the form in which the sign appears or in the way the object is represented in the manner. So as to obtain results, this paper has adopted qualitative approach and has used analytic method. Data has been collected through desk study of library resources and examination of pictorial documents. Moreover, the research has been based on the semiotic theory of Charles Sanders Peirce which covers elements of sign, interpretation and object to answer this very question that what is the interpretation of the semiological analysis of Naser al-Din Shah's portrait on the first Iranian banknote as a reflection of the top official authority of the country? Aiming to discover and infer the hidden meanings and implications of the said sign (i.e. Naser al-Din Shah's portrait on the first Iranian banknote), the semiotic theory of Charles Sanders Pierce has been used. The research outcomes indicated a continuity of the court's iconography and portrait painting traditions of Iranian monarchies along with habit of highlighting the most powerful auhtority of the country which resulted in the use of banknotes as both ideological tools and public advertizing media to emphasize the legitimacy of the prevalent government.
Article Type:
Research/Original Article
Journal of Theoretical principles of Visual Arts, Volume:5 Issue: 1, 2020
134 - 143
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