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    Sale 7571

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    8 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 233



    Price Realised  


    Oil on board, set in an interior, Fath 'Ali Shah sits in a large jewelled throne with a sword across his lap and a nargileh pipe in his hand, wearing a purple gem-encrusted robe and similarly decorated crown, surrounding him arranged in two rows are his immediate courtiers, all standing with their arms crossed, the characters with yellow identification inscriptions to their right, framed
    13 x 20½in. (33 x 52cm.)

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    This miniature is a copy of the central panel of the famous life-size painting prepared for the reception hall of the Negarestan Palace outside Tehran by a team of artists led by 'Abdallah Khan in 1812-13. In its complete form the work depicts an imaginary New Year's reception and shows the rows of retinue extended in lines including sons, retainers and ambassadors from France, Great Britain, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdoms of Sind and Arabia, all depicted in meticulous detail.

    There exist several small-scale versions of these wall paintings. It has been suggested that the copies were made as a propaganda tool for diplomatic distribution at the order of Fath 'Ali Shah (Layla Diba (ed.), Royal Persian Paintings, The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925, New York, 1998, nos.34a-c, pp. 174-76). This theory is supported by an example that was sold in Sotheby's, 3 May 1977, lot 75, which had been given to Sir Henry Willock (1788-1855) who was attached to the embassy of the British envoy and was awarded the Order of the lion and the Sun by Fath 'Ali Shah. The subject was also made into a print for wider circulation.

    Besides the present example there are only two other small-scale copies in which each character has a small white identification inscription (Diba, op.cit., p.176). One of these is in the Archiginnasio Library (Bologna, A.2925), which is a tempera and oil-on-canvas version of the left-hand panel. In this example, as in another surviving oil painting in a private collection, two of the court officials hold inscribed petitions to the ruler. Diba suggests that Persian artists sometimes submitted self-portraits holding humble requests for payment or patronage and that these small-scale paintings similarly appear to commemorate the completion of the Negarestan paintings (Diba, op. cit., p.176). Because the present panel is of the immediate sons and advisors of Fath 'Ali Shah, it seems likely that it was inscribed because it originally part of a larger panel where such a petition was included and where it was therefore necessary to continue the inscriptions.

    A similar panel, is in the collection of the Aga Khan (published in Spirit and Life. Masterpieces of Islamic Art from the Aga Khan Museum Collection, Switzerland, 2007, no. 75, pp.108-09). A copy of the right hand panel exists in the Khalili collection (M.B. Piotrovsky and J.M. Rogers, Heaven and Earth. Art from Islamic Lands, New York, 2004, no. 109, pp. 158-59). A complete triptych from the Aryeh Family Collection sold in Sotheby's, 13 October 1999, lot 19.

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