Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice


Gouache on paper, two lovers lie on the floor in amorous embrace, the man wearing red and white floral robe and the woman in green jacket and dark shirt, other clothes strewn around them, behind them a series of windows with elaborate geometric frames, one window open and with three housemaids peering in, one brandishing a duster and another a stick, the interior with European-style chair and large white cushion, laid down on gold-speckled blue ground, trimmed, some old creases and one side unfinished
Painting 8¾ x 13 3/8in. (22.3 x 34cm.); folio 12 x 14 7/8in. (30.5 x 37.8cm.)
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 23 October 2007, lot 192.

Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 8 October 2015, lot 67.
London, Oliver Hoare, Every Objects Tells a Story,2017, ß.
Post Lot Text
Oliver Hoare was amused to find a black square in Christie's catalogue obscuring the view. We reproduce the painting here in full, as imagine he would have appreciated.the full picture.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this painting is on cloth and not on paper as stated in the printed catalogue.

Brought to you by

Cosima Stewart
Cosima Stewart

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

The work of Abu'l-Hasan, Sani' al-Mulk demonstrates a change in the aesthetic of Qajar painting in the mid-19th century (Julian Raby, Qajar Portraits, London, 1999, p.53). The artist began his career as a pupil of Mihr 'Ali, but none of his early works survive and it is therefore unclear as to whether his painting began in a style more typical of Fath 'Ali Shah's reign. He was appointed the naqqashbashi (chief painter) of the court of Muhammad Shah in 1842 (Yahya Zoka, Life and Works of Sani' Ol-Molk 1814-1866, Iran, 2003, p. 21) and was sent to study in Italy and Paris, a factor which began to manifest itself in a European-influenced realism in his work that was new to Persian painting.

The expressive power of his portraits - as demonstrated here in the stylised yet strong features of his subjects - led Abu'l-Hasan to the art of caricature and he became the illustrator to the court newspaper, Ruznama-i vugayi-i ittifaqiya. Alongside the more traditional depictions of Qajar notables, he showed a capacity for the merciless caricature of their attendants and the religious classes (Julian Raby op. cit., p. 53). This tendency is very much visible here in his depiction of the three housemaids, where his skill in the art of caricature is demonstrated in the shocked yet humorous expressions as they stare both at the lovers and the viewer. These housemaids, and particularly the two to the right with their accentuated expressive features, bear a very strong resemblance to the two shocked characters, who similarly peer in through a window at an amorous couple in a larger oil on canvas which sold in these Rooms, 17 April 2007, lot 284. A closely related work signed by Mirza Baba Naqqash bashi was sold at Sotheby's London, 8 October 2014, lot 79, while a small gold box with top enamelled with another similar scene, signed by Muhammad Hassan Afshar and dated 1262/1845-6 was sold in these Rooms, 26 October 2017, lot 161.

Perhaps as a natural result of the new realism that was becoming commonplace in his work and that of his contemporaries, Abu'l-Hasan became known for demonstrating a strong psychological presence in his art. This is visible in the contrast between the soft features of the couple, particularly that of the lady, and the near-caricatures of the housemaids. Indeed, Zoka mentions that Abu'l-Hassan's playful and humorous natures is most conspicuous in his group portraits, where the physical and temperamental diversity of his subjects allows the artist a greater degree of depth by sarcastically contrasting their individual particularities (Zoka, op. cit., 2003, p. 70).

Like so many objects in this collection, one of the main reasons for Oliver Hoare to buy this painting was that it made him laugh, almost uncontrollably. At the same time, he found its combination of European realism and the Japanese shunga print a fascinating reflection of later 19th century cosmopolitan Iran.

More from The Oliver Hoare Collection

View All
View All