"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fath-Ali Shah

Fath-Ali Shah  فتح‌على شاه قاجار

This 1814 portrait of Fath Ali Shah  by Mihr-Ali hangs in the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC.
Proud, confident, and ablaze in jewelry, this figure represents Fath-Ali Shah (reigned 1797-1834), the second ruler of the Qajar dynasty of Iran (1789-1925). The celebrated painter Mihr Ali has portrayed the king as the legendary Persian hero Rustam, whose exploits are recounted in the Shahnama (Book of Kings). The leopard skin traditionally associated with Rustam has been transformed into armor studded with pearls, emeralds, and rubies, and his wooden bow has become a bejeweled weapon. Fath-Ali Shah's prominent beard and pink cheeks (symbols of his virility), coupled with his broad shoulders and slender waist, emphasize his identity as the ideal king.

Numerous portraits of Fath-Ali Shah were displayed in royal palaces in throughout Iran. Others were sent as diplomatic gifts to heads of state in Europe, Russia, and India to affirm the power and splendor of the Qajar ruler. Ironically, a year before this impressive portrait was completed in 1814, Persian armies suffered a crushing defeat from Russian forces.  -- The Sackler Gallery

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