Muhammad Zaman III, who used both Ya sahib al-Zaman and Aqa Zaman as his signatures, worked for both Lutf 'Ali Khan Zand and subsequently for the Qajars. The majority of his surviving output is in lacquer, but he also worked in oils. He was a very versatile artist whose bird and flower painting is superb (Khalili, Nasser D., Robinson, B.W. and Stanley, Tim: Lacquer of the Islamic Lands, part 1, London, 1996, nos. 69, 72 and 73), but who was also a very sensitive portraitist in oils (Diba, Layla S.: Royal Persian Paintings, New York, 1998, no.44, pp.190-1).
Despite being painted many years after the death of the subject, this mirror case renders Nader Shah very well, particularly closely to his portrait mounted on a horse outside a city wall, a painting which has been tentatively attributed to Muhammad 'Ali b.'Abd al-Beg b. 'Ali Quli Jubaddar (Diba, op.cit, no.22, pp.143-4). That painting shows Nader Shah on a prancing horse outside a city which it is suggested is either Tiflis or Erivan. The headgear of the inhabitants of the walled city on the cover of our mirror case cannot be determined well enough to see if it is intended to be one of those cities, or whether it might be Delhi, the most likely option in terms of propaganda.
The political relevance of a mirror case glorifying Nader Shah to Persia in the late 18th century is of interest. His love of war and conquest, his cruelty combined with his appreciation of the good things in life such as the watermelons of Balkh and Herat and a good horse, make him an interesting subject to have chosen. When this mirror case was made, the struggle between Lutf 'Ali Khan Zand and Muhammad Aqa Qajar was at its height. That year Aqa Muhammad managed to beat off Lutf 'Ali Khan's attempt to recapture Isfahan. At the same time Hajji Ibrahim, the man Lutf 'Ali Khan had left in charge of his capital, Shiraz, rebelled and entered into negotiations with Aqa Muhammad Qajar. The result of these, after some battles, was that Shiraz was handed over to the Qajars. What a very propitious time for Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar to commission a work glorifying Nader Shah, the last absolute ruler of Persia! And could it be that the very unusual depiction on the back cover symbolises Aqa Muhammad Khan having got to the heart of Lutf 'Ali khan Zand?