Lot 158
  • 158

A Court Lady Playing A Santour, attributable to the 'Shirin Painter', Persia, Qajar, circa 1840

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • oil on canvas
  • 148 by 75.5cm.
Oil on canvas, arched top, framed


Habsburg, Feldman, New York, 25 October 1989, lot 74

Catalogue Note

Court painting in Qajar Persia gave particular importance to the representation of women. From the mid-seventeenth century onwards, royal artists were attracted by European depictions of female subjects, borrowing certain poses, imagery and stylistic techniques into their own work. This elaborate oil embodies these influences elegantly. A luxuriously-dressed maiden is portrayed wearing a diaphanous blouse, with a white Kashmir shawl with embroidered ends draped beneath the santour which she is playing.The painting is particularly fine in its treatment of the textiles, with its different layers, varied palette, textures and heavy jewelled ornamentation all increasing the decorative effect (for a discussion of Persian costume of the period see 'Vesture and Dress; Fashion, Function and Impact' in Carol Bier (ed)., Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart, Washington DC., 1987). This portrait captures the Qajar ideal of beauty, specifically in the maiden's 'joined eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes, puckered lips and flamboyant hairdos' (L.S. Diba and M. Ekhtiar (eds.), Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925, pP.206-7).

Although the painting is unsigned and undated, it is attributable to the 'Shirin Painter', a name coined by B.W. Robinson, in reference to the portrait of a girl inscribed 'Shirin' that was formerly in the Amery Collection. The artist in question seems to have specialised in pictures of courtesans, sometimes acrobatic, with notably languid features. For further information see B.W. Robinson, 'The Amery Collection of Persian Oil Paintings', Studia Iranica, vol.1, 1972, p.952; S.J. Falk, Qajar Paintings, London 1972, p.45, figs.19-23, pls.44-48; B.W. Robinson, 'Lacquer, Oil-paintings and Later Arts of the Book', Treasures of Islam, Geneva 1985, nos.185-6. Further paintings by the 'Shirin Painter', also known as 'Muhammad', were sold in these rooms, 14 April 2010, lot 97, and 9 October 1978, lot 70.