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Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands

December 12, 2020 – April 18, 2021

High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St NE , Atlanta, GA 30309


Nasir al-Din Shah (r. 1848–1896), fourth ruler of the Turkic Qajar dynasty that ruled over Persia, projects a powerful presence. The shah, who acceded to the throne at age 17, wears a European-style military uniform (recalling Sir David Wilkie’s portrait of his contemporary, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I). He is flanked by his first prime minister, Amir Kabir, and army representatives.

One half of the king’s body is grounded in the physical world, while the other half is in a golden sky, affirming both earthly and divine authority. A keen painter, photographer and art patron, Nasir al-Din Shah collaborated with court painters to craft his image. This portrait of the young ruler marks the beginning of a prolific, creative period of royal portraiture.

The shah’s love of painting would also be illustrated in a eye-watering depiction of a banquet in the Gulestan Palace Gardens in Tehran, which sold at Christie’s in October, where framed paintings are hung high on the walls of a fabulous tent.

It is part of a marvellous show at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, dominated by Persian art from the private collection of Hossein Afshar, on long-term loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.


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Issue 62, 2021 Travellers’ Tales
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