Standing Maiden, Qajar, Persia, 19th Century
- 152 by 78cm.
This alluring portrait of a Persian maiden is typical in its representation of a seductive Qajar woman, with her languid stare, joined eye-brows and almond shaped eyes she adheres to the contemporary ideal of beauty. However the unusual European mode of dress, with layered skirts, ruffled cuffs and revealing tunic, does not correspond with the typical portrait of an entertainer or harem girl.
More traditionally garbed harem girls often expose their breasts from behind thin silk chemise (see Diba and Ekthiar 1998, p.156, 158, 205, 206; and Falk 1972 cat. 5, 32, 43, 44, 45, 49, 50). Clearly these entertainers were the most available of Iranian women and by definition were objects of desire, yet it was not necessary to represent them in European dress. Representations of European or bare-breasted women were often associated with contemporary perceptions of Europe, according to Diba and Ekhtiar "the bare breasts of the European woman were signs of her sexual availability in Iranian male fantasy, presenting a sight at once deeply fearsome and highly desired." (Diba and Ekhtiar 1998, p.84). It is possible that the exposure of her décolletage, twinned with the connotations of European clothing could have provided even greater delight to the viewer.