Shah 'Abbas II and the Mughal Ambassador - Aga Khan Museum
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The Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures - Safavid, circa 1663 CE  Place your mouse over the image
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Classification
Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures

Object name
Shah 'Abbas Ii And The Mughal Ambassador

Geography
Iran

Period
Safavid, circa 1663 CE

Dynasty
Safavid

Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper, pasted on blue cardboard

Dimensions
24.2 x 33.2 cm

Accession number
AKM00110

Description

Shah ‛Abbas II (r. 1642-66 CE) sits centre stage in this elegant reception which overflows with sumptuously dressed courtiers in striped turbans (some wrapped around a red kula) bearing strings of pearls and turban-ornaments with a tuft of black feathers. Musicians play their instruments and servants bring gold-covered dishes and gold cups on trays. Shah ‛Abbas appears in regal splendour wearing a jewelled dagger and sword at his waist, and on his head an elaborate striped turban adorned with jewels, curling white feathers and a tuft of black feathers. He is identified by a thuluth inscription on the building behind him: “The Lord of the Court, the Lord of the Two Conjunctions, the Victorious, Shah ‛Abbas, may God make his rule eternal.” This painting, with its masterful use of European-style techniques including shading and tonal perspective, has generated much scholarly debate over its attribution (for a summary, see Canby 1998, pp. 80-81). Diba recently published this painting as a historical portrait by the Zand artist Abu’l Hasan Ghaffari Mustawfi Kashani (fl. 1781-94 CE) who had trained as a historian and was known for historical portraits of Safavid and Turkman rulers, in addition to paintings of his own family and that of Karim Khan Zand. She makes a stylistic comparison to his “lively composition, broadshouldered figures, stiff turbans, and placid faces of the youths” which look back to early eighteenth-century style, and supports her attribution by citing similar epigraphic panels in thuluth script found in arched bays in two other paintings by the artist (Diba 1998, pp. 148-49; 1989, p. 156). The painting is called Shah ‛Abbas II (r. 1642-66 CE) and the Mughal Ambassador, although the identity of the “ambassador” - a small bearded man in white wearing a red turban and an Indian qatar at his belt, gesturing with upturned hand toward the shah - remains unresolved. The arguments are summarised by Canby who suggests another alternative for the identity of the ambassador: the Indian rulers of Deccani Bijapur and Golconda, who sought Safavid help against the Mughals in the second half of the seventeenth century (Canby 1998, pp. 80-81).

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