Fahr El-Nissa Zeid (Turkey, 1900-1991) Portrait of Seteney Shami
Lot 405*
Fahr El-Nissa Zeid
(Turkey, 1900-1991)
Portrait of Seteney Shami
£70,000 - 100,000
US$ 110,000 - 160,000

Lot Details
Fahr El-Nissa Zeid (Turkey, 1900-1991)
Portrait of Seteney Shami
oil on canvas, framed
signed "Fahr El-Nissa Zeid" in Arabic (top left), executed in 1985
100 x 79cm (39 3/8 x 31 1/8in).

Footnotes

  • "In abstract painting, the unconscious part of me tries to express itself and to interpret my inner exigencies. But in a portrait, you have the person in front of you, the human being with his life, his thought and origins. 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." - Fahr El-Nissa Zeid

    Provenance:
    Acquired directly from the artist by her pupil Janset Shami in Amman, circa 1985

    Bonham's are delighted to present a formidable portrait by the prolific Turkish artist Fahr El-Nissa Zeid. Ornate, vibrant, and deeply personal, the present portrait depicts the daughter of one of Fahr El-Nissa's friends, and pupils, Mrs Janset Berlok Shami, herself a reputed artist, writer and wife of a senior Turkish government official.

    Profusely creative and astoundingly versatile Fahr El Nissa Zeid was an artist par excellence. One of the first women to attend the Fine Arts Academy in Istanbul, Fahr El-Nissa went on train at the Academi Ranson in Paris under Roger Bissiere. After marrying into the Hashemite Royal family of Jordan Fahr El-Nissa participated in a spate of international solo exhibitions in London, Paris, and New York and the Middle East before settling in Amman in 1976, after the death of her husband Prince Zeid.

    It is during this period of her life that her earlier abstraction gave way to a more naturalistic, figurative aesthetic and the bulk of her work in the latter stages of her career consisted of intimate and emblematic portraits of notable public figures and those in her inner circle.

    Whilst an evident aesthetic shift did take place during this period the artist herself was always adamant that the conceptual underpinnings of her work remained abstract in nature. For Fahr El-Nissa, her portraits, whilst visually figurative, were not likenesses of her models, rather they were representations of the model's inner life, vignettes of their interior being, the discovery and depiction of which, for Fahr El-Nissa, was a distinctly abstract process which involved a complete understanding of the "soul" and "spirit" of her sitter.

    Fahr El-Nissa's portraits are therefore to be interpreted neither as figures nor forms, but as a "mood of the spirit", abstract and ineffable characteristics of people which she faithfully captures in the contours of paint.

    An ethnic Circassian, Mrs Shami's daughter is depicted in a resplendent Adighe cloak. Youthful and buoyant, her splendour and embellishment reflect the Orientalist conception of the "Circassian beauty" as a venerated paragon of womanly grace. Circassians were long admired for their beauty as well as their spirited, genteel and refined temperament, and were often taken as wives or concubines by European nobility. Accordingly, Fahr El-Nissa's figure, with its shrewd and astute gaze, seems to reveal a keen awareness of her own pedigree, with strong pyramidal brush-strokes in the background adding to her sense of stature and elevation.

    Idealized and stylistically iconic, pictures from this period exhibit a move away from Fahr El-Nissa's European inspired early work and reveal a more Oriental touch, perhaps partly inspired by the heavily ornate and stylized aesthetic of 19th century Qajar court painting. Ultimately, they reflect a period of her life which was beset by the grief of her late husband and the loneliness it engendered. Portraiture , was thus as much a palliative as it was an impulse, allowing her to connect with those around her and immerse herself in human surroundings.

    Sensitively rendered, and exhibiting a poise and finesse characteristic of Fahr El Nissa's finest portraiture, the present work is a superlative example of Zeid at the height of her artistic maturity.
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Contacts
  1. Nima Sagharchi
    Specialist - Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art
    Bonhams
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