Calligraphy (Khosh naveesee), like all forms of art that was introduced into Persia following foreign conquests, was enhanced and developed into a high art form. It was practised not only by professional calligraphers, but also by princes and noblemen. Under the Timurids and the Safavids, calligraphy experienced perhaps its most brilliant development. It was regarded as an expression of man's spiritual state; for 'purity of writing proceeds from purity of heart' (Sultan Ali Mashhadi); therefore the calligrapher had to undergo observances similar to those of the holy person. In addition, the subject matter had to be of sufficiently noble content.
As recently as the 1960s, calligraphy was regularly taught in Iranian schools, using bamboo sticks to create intricate designs. The art was no longer practised after this period, and only a few people now maintain this intricate art form. Esrafil Shirchi is one of Iran's best -- and best-known -- master calligraphers, and his works are prized by collectors around the world.