There is another painting, almost identical to ours in the British Library (Julian Raby, Qajar Portraits, London, 1999, pp.62-3 and B.W. Robinson, Persian Drawings from the 14th through the 19th Century, New York, 1965). The figures and the faces of the sitter in the two are almost indistinguishable. The British Library example has two inscription cartouches dated AH 1280 and saying that the work was done by Yusuf, and that he acknowledges that he copied a work by Abu'l Hasan Ghaffari, Sani' al-Mulk.
Abu'l Hasan Ghaffari is known to have done more than one copy of many of his works. For example for a work by him that was sold in these Rooms, 17 April 2007, lot 276, another version is known in the Khalili Collection. Abu'l Hassan was also known to undertake the most complex part of a portrait, that is the face, and to leave other areas of the painting to members of the atelier, which may account for the sketchily drawn and unfinished aspects of this background including the bolsters and wall panels.
Another portrait of 'Ali Quli Mirza, also by Abu'l Hassan, can be found in the Nezamiyeh Hall Panels, which were commissioned in 1855 by Chancellor Mirza Aqa Khan Noori and depicted Nasir al-Din Shah, his sons and numerous courtiers (Yahya Zoka, Life and Works of Sani' Ol-Molk 1814-1866, Iran, 2003, p. 110). The portrait of 'Ali Quli Mirza in the Hall Panel must have been copied from a version of this painting in that whilst his stance resembles those around him, his face is tilted to the right, unlike any of the rest of those represented. In all features, he is also a replica of the present example. This indicates that this miniature was painted before the Nezamiyeh Hall Panels were completed in 1858.
'Ali Quli Mirza, I'tizad al-Sultaneh (1822-81) was Fath 'Ali Shah's forty seventh son and was appointed Director of the Dar al-Funun in 1858 and Minister of Education in 1859.
A note on the back of this painting reads: 'On 12 Jumada I 1322, bought for Aqa Ghulam 'Ali Isfahani by MM'.