Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Shepherds In A Landscape
Safavid, circa 1675 CE
Materials and technique
Watercolour on paper.
Image 12.2 x 16.9 cm
Two wistful-looking shepherds loll on a hillock as their sheep and a goat graze at the left and their dog lies watchfully at the right. In the background a hamlet with onion-domed towers and low buildings set in a grove completes the composition. Not only do the hat of the piping shepherd, his contraposto pose and the transparent pantaloons of both figures give a decidedly un-Persian impression, but also the painterly treatment of foliage and the shading of the gullies in the middle ground indicate the presence of strong European influence. By the 1670s European artists had been active in Isfahan for at least fifty years, and the europeanising or ‘farangi’ style had been established since the middle of the century. According to the 18th century writer Luft 'Ali Beg Adar, 'Ali Quli Jabbadar was a European convert to Islam. His name suggests that he had come to Iran to work as an official in the Safavid armoury (Makariou 2007, p. 55, no. 51). Apparently he abandoned making armour in favour of painting, though his eclectic style, neither wholly European nor Persian, may indicate that he was never thoroughly trained in either mode. The painting of the shepherds is one with very few Persian elements and should be dated near the beginning of his career in the mid-1670s shortly after his earliest dated work of 1084 H/1673-74 CE (ibid., cat. no. 52). 'Ali Quli may have worked in several centres since one of his paintings is inscribed ‘Qazvin’ and another ‘Isfahan’. Several paintings by him in an album in St Petersburg have Georgian inscriptions, prompting Soucek to propose that a Georgian official commissioned these portraits of Shah Sulayman (ibid., cat. no. 53). His career lasted until at least 1129 H/1716-17 CE, the year of his latest dated work, and his son, Muhammad 'Ali Beg, become head of the painters under Nadir Shah (ibid., cat. no. 54).
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