oil on canvas, verso with old label with identifying inscription 91.5 x 71 cm.
Provenance: UK private collection; acquired directly from the artist in the mid 1970s.
Portraits Following the death of her first husband Izzet Melih Devrim (1887-1966), Fahrelnissa returned to portrait painting for the first time since her childhood, her first work being a large scale portrait of her Prince Zeid. Other known sitters include Prince Hasan, Prince Ra'ad, Sirin Devrim, Charles Estienne, Katia Granoff, Rose Larock and Rene Barotte. A major exhibition of portraits and abstracts was held at Galerie Katia Granoff in Paris in 1972 (Exposition Fahrelnissa Zeid. Portraits et peintures abstraites, du 30 mai au 24 juin 1972).
When asked why she had moved from abstracts to portraits, she replied: "In my opinion, this is also abstract. There is no difference. I am not taking a photograph of a face; I am trying to reflect its inner world. And a person's inner world is abstract" (quoted in Ileri, Cem, Fahrelnissa & Nejad. Two Generations of the Rainbow, Istanbul, 2006, p. 34).
She declared that she drew portraits in her mind first, and that she would transfer them to canvas quickly. A portrait was neither a figure, nor a form or colour, but a mood of the spirit. Katia Granoff, the Paris gallerist, called Fahrelnissa a "soul thief" when referring to her portraits. Notably, Fahrelnissa depicts her subjects with a youthful appearance, regardless of their age at the time of painting.
Arabian Queen - Queen Aliya of Iraq This portrait appears to be closely based on Queen Aliya of Iraq (1911-1950). Princess Aliya bint Ali was the second daughter of Ali bin Hussein, King of the Hijaz and Grand Sharif of Mecca. In 1934, she married King Ghazi I (reg. 1933-39), the son of Faisal I (d. 1933). The marriage produced one son, Faisal II (1935 - 1958). King Ghazi died in a car crash in April 1939. He was succeeded by his son, who was still a minor. Faisal II did not marry and so Queen Aliya was the last Queen of Iraq. She died in Baghdad in 1950 at the age of 39.
Fahrelnissa's husband Prince Zeid was the brother of King Faisal I and so the artist was, therefore, Princess Aliya's aunt by marriage.