Born into a prominent family of Ottoman diplomats, Princess Fahr El-Nissa Zeid came from a culturally rich family that would continue to be an underlying influence in her works. From a young age she was encouraged to learn several different languages, partake in the understanding of Sufism and the Rufaiyah Dervish order and studied at the Imperial School of Fine Arts in Istanbul. When she married her first husband, Izzet Melih, she travelled to Europe in the 1920s, allowing her to be exposed to new levels of cultural influences that was to shape her future artistic practice. After her divorce in the mid-thirties, 1934 Zeid married again to the Hashemite Prince Zeid bin Hussein. As the Iraqi ambassador's wife, Zeid travelled extensively throughout Europe, the US and the Middle East. These visits to several European capitals exposed her to more works of Western artists including those of Joan Miró, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Zeid addresses a variety of themes and subjects in her artworks bringing a sense of Oriental exoticism to the mix of Western influences, capturing the attention of many critics and gallerists. Her work entitled Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life sold at Christies in October 2013 for US$2,741,000 holds the record for the most expensive painting to be sold in the Middle East and her works can be found in various prominent collections and museums around the world, with an expected retrospective planed at the Tate in 2017. The artist continued to tackle the various themes and notions within the abstract realm, eventually turning to portraits of family members, relatives and friends, which dominated her oeuvre before her death. In these captivating portraits, Zeid resorted to exaggerated features, the Byzantine style of iconography and elongated faces with large rounded eyes which similarly can be found in Egyptian Fayum portraits. When asked why she had moved from abstract to portrait painting, Zeid felt that there was no difference between what was considered abstract and her portraits stating 'I am not taking a photograph of a face; I am trying to reflect its inner world. And a person’s inner world is abstract.' (A. Turay, Cumhuriyet (in Turkish), 19 December 1988, p. 4).
In Portrait of Sally Ann Mango, Zeid captures the captivating charm of the sitter, a member of the prominent business family in Jordan, who was pregnant at the time with her first child. Introduced to each other through common friends, Zeid took the opportunity to capture the essence of Sally Ann through a simplicity in line and form, freeing it from details that skillfully captures the identity and personality of a woman who is about to experience motherhood for the first time and the glow yet subtle nervousness that comes with it. The sitter’s piercing blue eyes contrasted against the radiating blond hair stands out against the browns of her traditional dress while her hand seemingly strokes her luscious locks of hair appearing to also lay a hand on her heart, referencing again the addition to the family that is to open her heart more to love.