This portrait is an excellent example of the high quality illustrative techniques employed by master painter Abu'l Hasan Ghaffari. Born in 1812 in Kashan, Ghaffari joined a family who had been practising art for generations. Aged fifteen he was apprenticed to Mihr 'Ali, assuming the role of official court painter for Muhammad Shah. From 1845-50, he studied painting in Italy and upon his return he was promoted to naqqash bashi
. Ghaffari was a master draughtsman whose naturalistic style introduced an emotional realism to Qajar portraiture, combining influences from European Renaissance works whilst retaining the traditional Persian approach in his attention to detail and pattern. In 1861, Ghaffari was appointed Sani' al-Mulk
and assumed responsibilities including directing the Dar al-Funun college of art, the illustration of a monumental copy of A Thousand and One Nights, and the weekly governmental newspaper Sharaq
The subject of the painting, Farrokh Khan Amin-al Dowleh, a skilled diplomat, served as the emissary to Nasir al-din Shah of the Qajar Dynasty to the courts of Napolean III and Queen Victoria. He led the negotiations of the March 1857 Treaty of Paris, which put an end to the Anglo-Persian War. He later became Prime Minister, commissioning various notable construction projects in Kashan.
Executed in watercolour heightened with gold on paper, Ghaffari deftly portrays Farrokh Khan dressed in a traditional loose flowing aba’a
of the type often made in Kashan. Characterised by its royal blue silk with woven golden metal thread, such a garment alludes to the dignity and high social standing of the present subject. Upon his head Farrokh Khan wears a tall astrakhan
hat, and one observes the meticulous attention paid to realistically render the ermine lining of his inner robe and the rich palette employed to illustrate the sumptuously-decorated interior. The artist successfuly captures his sitter's ruling personality and force of influence. The fur-lined robe worn beneath the aba’a
denotes the thriving commercial fur network in Eastern Europe at the time, where Muslim merchants would return with luxurious pelts to line the clothing of nobility and prominent political figures.
For further examples of works by Abu’l Hasan Ghaffari please see Diba & Ekhtiar 1998, pp.249, 252, 253, pls.78 and 80. Two royal portraits by the artist were sold in these rooms, 18 April 2007, lot 29 and 12 October 2004, lot 29.