A magnificent, large, diamond-set enamelled gold Portrait of Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-48) Persia, circa 1835-40

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Lot 153*
A magnificent, large, diamond-set enamelled gold Portrait of Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-48)
Persia, circa 1835-40

Sold for £ 116,500 (US$ 147,297) inc. premium
A magnificent, large, diamond-set enamelled gold Portrait of Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-48)
Persia, circa 1835-40
the oval medallion enamelled in polychrome and inlaid with gold, depicting the Shah with head turned, wearing a crimson robe with pearl-encrusted collar, his turban with an elaborate diamond-set sarpech, the robe with diamond ornaments on the shoulders, bazubands on the arms and front; the blue background with an nasta'liq filled medallion to either side of the figure; set into an elaborate gold frame with diamond-set green and red enamelled flowers, with granulation on the edges; verso with two suspension loops and later pin
10.1 x 8 cm. max.

Footnotes

  • Provenance: Swiss private collection; acquired Sotheby's, Islamic Works of Art, 21st October 1993, lot 248.

    Inscriptions: al-Sultan ibn Sultan, al-Sultan Muhammad Shah Qajar.

    This lavishly embellished portrait of Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-48) offers an exquisite example of the skill of the Qajar enamel artist and embodies the Qajar predilection for jeweled objects. It offers a fine and rare portrait of a Shah, whose reign was relatively short, yet during which time a major transition in the art of painting took place.

    During the fourteen year reign of Muhammad Shah Qajar, the commissioning of large scale portraiture and depictions of hunting and battle- scenes that was prevalent during the rule of Fath 'Ali Shah (r. 1797-1834) declined. In its place, small-scale works became more fashionable, particularly in the medium of lacquer, and it became a popular medium for the depiction of European themes and significant contemporary events.

    Muhammad Shah's predecessor, Fath 'Ali Shah, provided the precedent for small portraits: he rewarded envoys and other dignitaries miniature with portraits of himself, some of which were set in jeweled frames, in appreciation of their services. Dr John McNeill (1795-1883), for example, received a portrait of the Shah set in diamonds for his assistance that led to the Treaty of Turkmanchay of 1828 and the withdrawal of the Russians from Azerbaijan.

    Portrait medallions were a characteristically Qajar form of jewellery worn by Qajar rulers and their courtiers to show due reverence for the figure depicted. This particular trend seems to have become popular during the reign of Muhammad Shah. In a portrait dating to AH 1260/ AD 1844 by the artist Ahmad, the Shah is seen paying homage to Fath 'Ali Shah by wearing his grandfather's image on his chest (Julian Raby (ed.), Qajar Portraits, London, 1999, pp. 52 and p. 54, no. 117; and similarly in another portrait by Muhammad Hasan Afshar of AH 1283/ AD 1846-47 (ibid., pp. 53 and 55, no. 118).

    Another gem-set portrait of Muhammad Shah, probably from the same pictorial source, was sold at Sotheby's (Arts of the Islamic World, 12th October 2000, lot 214).
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A magnificent, large, diamond-set enamelled gold Portrait of Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-48) Persia, circa 1835-40
A magnificent, large, diamond-set enamelled gold Portrait of Muhammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-48) Persia, circa 1835-40
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