Karim Khan Zand And His Courtiers
Zand, circa 1780s CE
Materials and technique
Oil and metal leaf on canvas
129.5 x 276.8 cm
In contrast to the Qajar imperial enthronement scenes of Nadir Shah (r. 1736-47 CE) and Fath 'Ali Shah (r. 1798-1834 CE) both of whom are decoratively depicted in full regalia, there are few indicators that this is an imperial image. Karim Khan, the Zand regent who ruled for one of the last Safavids, wears a Zand turban but no official regalia. The informality of this casual smoking portrait relates to the style of his rule. Karim Khan Zand’s strong shoulders, the deferential posture of his courtiers, the monumentality of the columned porch and the sheer size of the painting itself convey the power of his rule and the stability he brought to Iran. Diba has attributed the work to Muhammad Sadiq based on a portrait sketch of Karim Khan Zand signed by the artist and details such as the heavily shaded faces, turbans and small-scale floral patterns, all also found in the artist’s signed portrait of Rustam Khan Zand. She has suggested that the present painting may have been a commemorative portrait commissioned after the ruler’s death, based on her observation that the serious tone of the courtiers contradicts the reportedly coarse humour and jocularity of Zand’s actual court (Diba 1998, pp. 152-53).
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