Lot 12
  • 12

Farhad Moshiri

80,000 - 100,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Farhad Moshiri
  • For you I was a Puppet, You Gave me Breath...
  • signed and dated Farhad Moshiri 2003; signed, titled and dated in Farsi on the reverse 
  • oil, acrylic and glue on canvas 
  • 178 by 145.2cm.; 70 1/8 by 57 1/4 in.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2003 


Dina Nasser-Khadivi, Farhad Moshiri, Milan, 2016, p.72, p.127

Catalogue Note

Before the love and the glitter, Farhad Moshiri’s artistic persona was shaped by the contours of Sassanian clay. A beautiful example of his pottery paintings, Sotheby’s is incredibly excited to offer one the earliest calligraphic works from his revered Jar Series have ever been exhibited by the artist. A bowl stunning in its rendition and overpowering with the refinement of its text, its execution is marked with immense technical talent. Its inception lends a poetic reflection of a close personal relationship between the artist and his wife, the muse. 

Moshiri’s Jars do however hold the mimetic desires of discovery, or more appropriately – rediscovery. He returned to Iran in 1991 after having attended California Institute of the Arts. The inspiration for his series of pottery paintings came when Moshiri traded in the perceived footpath of the ‘American Dream’ for days spent amidst the calls of street vendors in Tehran’s Antique District. Moshiri began collecting old ceramic vessels and revered their elegant form and utilitarian function. Stylistically, his canvases borrowed from techniques used by the antique dealers who deliberately aged their 19th century Qajar paintings.

Crushed, folded, soaked and cracked, his canvas is weathered, earthy and heavy handed in its treatment; yet the inherent fragility of its subject matter offsets it with a grace that can only come with the knowledge of its dormant, ancient history. It is its scale and intentionally distressed surface that pulls us under the rubble; past the initial layers of dust and debris and into a sensory unearthing. It is precisely this ability to take the sensory elements of an excavation and transform them into its visual embodiment that makes his work so impressive.

While inspired by heritage, For You I was a Puppet... reflects an aesthetic recollection, a reminder of buried pasts and forgotten memories, where the visual meets the language, where the ancient Persia meets the American Pop culture as well as contemporary Persian pop culture. As if embedded into the craquelure and vibrant pink, the work is lined with a sense of love and intimacy. The jar is circled with a personal poem by the artist, most probably inspired by a famous song that aired that same year on Iranian radio channels, dedicated most probably to his beloved wife, the poem reads:

For you I was a puppet
To whom you gave it breath
My heart you bought one day
Only to give it back the next day

The beauty of For You I was a Puppet... lies in its simplicity of form and exquisite craquelure texture that are so quintessentially Moshiri. The craquelures of the iridescent paint give the jar its rich texture, which at once makes the object appear beautiful as well as ancient and important. In the present work, the crackles are extremely strong.

With an oeuvre that moves freely between spaces steeped in shared cultural memories and those that playfully reflect a ubiquitous zeitgeist, Moshiri shows us that culture is personal and porous, but ultimately illusory.  He reminds us that beauty and a sense of identity come from the pleasure of rediscovery and the realignment or reattribution of meaning. This important and beautiful work personifies the artist as an international entity but also the artist as a simple man, who has fallen in love with his art and his beloved wife.