European Women in Persian Houses: Western Images in Safavid and Qajar Iran 9781350986299, 1350986291, 9781838608484, 1838608486

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European Women in Persian Houses: Western Images in Safavid and Qajar Iran
 9781350986299, 1350986291, 9781838608484, 1838608486

Table of contents :
Part I: Zan-e Farangi (Farangi Woman)
Part II: The Return of Images of Farangi Women in Iran
Part III: The Iranian Contribution

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European Women in Persian Houses Western Images in Safavid and Qajar Iran

European Women in Persian Houses W e s t e r n Images in Safavid and Qajar Iran

Parviz Tanavoli

Edited by Sarah B.Sherrill and Dr. Moya C a r e y

Distributed exclusively worldwide in 2015 by LB.Tauris & Co. Ltd London • New York Copyright © 2015 Par viz Tanavoli

European Women in Persian Houses Western Images in Safavid and Qajar Iran Parviz Tanavoli Edited by Sarah B. Sherrill and Dr. Moya Carey Design: Mahbubeh Mehrabani Photos: All photos by Mahnaz Abbaspour except: Masih Ahmadi: 125-128 Peter John Gates: 135-137, 139, 140, 142 Davood Sadeqsa: 16-29 Qasem Salimi: 143 Anton Sevrogin: 1 Parviz Tanavoli: 40d, 83, 84, 108, 109, 129, 130,134, 138,144, 146 and 148-152 Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 38 and 39 Anonymous: 5, 32, 33, 34, 87, 131, 132,133, 147 Acknowledgments My sincere thanks to the following friends and colleagues for their assistance and contributions, without whom this book could not have been written: Mahnaz Abbaspur, Masih Ahmadi, Dr. Moya Carey, Iman Raad Seyyed Mohammad Faqih Emami, Mahbubeh Mehrabani, Setareh Meshkati, Mohammad Qane'i, Mona Paad, Rahim Shahshahani Sarah B. Sherrill and Tandis Tanavoli.

The right of Parviz Tanavoli to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by the author in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Every attempt has been made to gain permission for the use of the images in this book. Any omissions will be rectified in future editions. References to websites were correct at the time of writing. ISBN: 78453 507 507 00 ISBN: 978 978 11 78453

eISBN: 978 1 83860 848 4 ePDF: 978 1 83860 849 1

A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available Typeset by Swales & Willis Ltd, Exeter, Devon Printed and bound bv KEY*HOUSE^OF*PRINTPRO

Contents Preface Part I: Zan-e Farangi (Farangi Woman) Occidentalism Iran in the Late 19th Century The Appearance of European Women in Persian Painting Images of European Women in the 17th Century in Iran The Sukiasian House

7 11 13 14 17 21 22

Part II: The Return of Images of Farangi Women in Iran Images of Farangi Women in Later Persian Houses

25 27

Prints of Images of European Women Mirror Rooms The Shahshahani House The Zavelian House The House of Mushir al-Mulk The Homa'i House Trays

29 32 34 37 38 40 40

Part III: The Iranian Contribution Farangi Women on Rugs and Other Media Fatima Farangi Women on Rugs, Qahmkars, and Tiles

43 44 45 47




[1] For more information, see Sussan Babaie, "Frontiers of Visual Taboo: Painted Indecencies in Isfahan," in Eros and Sexuality' in Islamic Art, eds. Francesca Leoni and Mika Natif, Farnham (UK) and Burlington, Vermont (USA), 2013, page 132, plates 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4.

During the course of the 19th century a relatively modern medium entered the private space of Isfahan houses and became a popular feature of interior design in Qajar Iran. This was the medium of print — lithographed images on paper and postcards, whose subject was European women. The Persian word "Farangi" for Europeans is a corruption of the word "Frankish," because among the earliest European travelers to Iran were Frenchmen, and for Persians that word came to represent all Europeans, from whatever country. The decorative use of generic images of beautiful European women wearing their foreign fashions, or perhaps wearing very litde at all, has a longer history in Isfahan. In that sense, Isfahan is a unique city in the Islamic world for its extraordinary visual phenomena of scale and public accessibility, as shown by mural decoration at the entrance gate of the Qaysarieh bazaar of Isfahan,1 as well as by the frescoes in the royal palaces of the Safavid dynasty (1501—1736), and the paintings of artists such as Reza Abbasi (c. 1565-1635). By the 19th century, such images had become available more cheaply as mass media, as imported prints or newspaper illustrations, and they were enthusiastically received. They were displayed in homes, fixed to the walls and the ceilings, for the entertainment of family and friends. This was a fashion trend that was apparently enjoyed throughout the country, and for the entire Qajar period. The love of the Isfahanis for these images created an aura of excitement and brought new life to their homes. In those days, it was brave to keep images of partly naked women and expose them to family and guests. The risk of being condemned for breaking religious rules and for being blasphemous was high.

Yet the Isfahanis managed to avoid trouble. Another courageous action of the Isfahanis was their decision to mix a Western medium and subject with traditional Iranian art forms such as mirror works and floraldecorated stucco. As mentioned above, we know that for grand residential architecture Isfahan had a long history of cosmopolitan attitudes in matters of visual style. Still today, the palaces of Safavid Isfahan show how interior design thrived on a vibrant combination of techniques, palettes, and styles, which work in harmony together. Nonetheless, in the Qajar period it was a radical move to display foreign chromolithographs of such risky and exotic subjects. As is recorded in many sources, 1 ^-century European travelers were surprised to see how well these popular artworks were incorporated into more traditional media and styles, such as carved stucco, mirrorwork, and fresco. Mass-media print images were also applied to interior decoration in Europe, in similarly creative and diverse contexts: in mid 19thcentury "artistic houses" in Britain, print images were fixed to walls, screens, and scrapbooks, and were even imitated in tilework and murals. Being cheap and widely available, print images were perfectly transferable, with a cheerful novelty and a wide appeal. Certainly, the combination was a great success, in Iran as in Europe. Blending different materials of different natures not only did not disturb the eye, but was pleasing.2 Furthermore, it brought a happy atmosphere to the house and amused guests. The operation was simple, and was based on placing a ready-made object within a new environment, thereby giving it new life. Such an act was in principle not unlike the decision of the Pop Artists of the 1960s, a century later.

[2] Qajar wall decoration also included tiny scenes painted in blue and white, echoing Chinese porcelain, which was also treasured as exotic domestic display.


Parti Zan-e Farangi (Farangi W o m a n )

[3] Amy S. Landau, "Visibly Foreign, Visibly Female: The Eroticization of zan-i farangi in Seventeenth-Century Persian Painting," in Eros and Sexuality in Islamic Art, eds. Leoni and Natif, page 100.

[4] Amy Landau analyzes a poem by the lT^-century Isfahani poet Isma'il Zabihi, who praises the physical beauty of Farangi females. Ibid., page 99.


From late 16th century onward, Iran drew the growing attention of Europeans and, as time went by, the number of Europeans traveling to Iran increased, to such an extent that, by the mid 17th century, the capital of Iran - Isfahan — hosted visitors from nearly all regions of Europe. Although the foreign population of Isfahan during the 17th century was almost exclusively male, on the basis of secondary oral and visual sources a general notion was prevalent that images of Farangi women were in great demand. The importation of images of European female nudes in print and paint, beginning around 1600, may have sparked enthusiasm for Iranians to depict the European woman. 3 The Farangi woman (zan-e farangi) herself, was an object of desire, too, appearing in some Iranian literature of the 17th century.4 As Amy Landau describes below, long before the Western Orientalists, the Safavids eroticized and sexualized European females. "The Safavid evidence reverses the traditional orientalist 'East-West' dialectic in which the 'East' is understood as the passive feminine recipient of the gaze belonging to the all-powerful masculine "West/ In other words, the eroticized and exoticized woman has been discussed as an orientalist motif, generally under the rubric of the odalisque, the ubiquitous sex slave and object of male sexual fantasy. Images of reclining women in the seraglio or staged in another domestic setting are theorized as objects upon which the Western male projected his fears, anxieties, and desires. Much literature has been dedicated to building this argument within the historical context of Western imperialism and the power imbalance between Europe and America, on

one hand, and Asia on the other. The Safavid material seriously questions our assumption of who sexualizes and mythologies whom and suggests highly permeable and constantly shifting boundaries of the erotic and exotic 'other.' The evidence presented in this article leaves little doubt that the Safavid male subjugated the European female to his own gaze long before Western imperialism."5

Occidentalism I use the term Occidentalism (the opposite of Orientalism) to indicate the taste of a specific period concerning an alien culture of a particular people. But it was not as widespread in Iran as Orientalism was in the West.6 Orientalist taste introduced a Western audience to a permissible world of fantasy: exotic scenes of people of North Africa and the Middle East, occupying a picturesque world that was novel and different from their own, with different social rules. In Iran, Occidentalist taste played a similar role: exciting images of an alien people showed a fascinating and foreign social environment. In both cases, this imagined alien world reflected in some way on the viewer's own home environment, confirming prejudices, exciting forbidden desires, or offering a critique of the status quo. French and, later, British artists pioneered Orientalist art, and some traveled to Middle Eastern and North African countries. Their art typically focused on the people of these foreign lands, addressing imagined scenarios of exotic cliche. Muslim men dressed in long robes and exotic turbans and other headdresses in the bazaars, sometimes selling women and sometimes Oriental rugs. Women were a particularly obsessive focus of Orientalist painters,

[5] Ibid., page 100. [6] Although also used by art historians, the term Occidentalism was first coined by anthropologists, particularly in connection with social control over women. Laura Nader, "Orientalism, Occidentalism and the Control of Women," Cultural Dynamics 2 ,1989, pages 323—355.


imagined as sexually available nude concubines, lounging in pseudo-harem surroundings. Occidentalist taste in Iran followed a similar approach, with widespread interest in the people and scenes of Europe, which in turn were exotic and strange. Again, women were of particular interest, for the great novelty of their different appearance, elaborate fashions, and imagined behavior. Any imagery of this nature — either in the format of a newspaper advertisement or postcard, or as a utilitarian object adorned with female images — that reached Iran in those days was treasured and considered an oeuvre d'art, and was cherished as a novelty of the time (reflecting both works of Iranian artists and Iranian buyers of European prints).

Iran in the Late 19th Century It will be helpful at this point to provide an image of Iran in the late 19th century in general, and then to describe the social structure of Isfahan in particular. Throughout the 19th century, Iran went through major political, social, and economic changes. The increasing overlap between Iranian territory and European interests, and the reports that occasional Iranian travelers brought back from Europe, were major topics of discussion at that time. The defeat of Iran by Russia in the earlier part of the th 19 century, and the resulting loss of vast territories, warned Iranians that the Empire of Persia was no longer invulnerable and could not survive as in former times. Also, it revealed that the Persian army could not withstand the modern mechanized forces of its northern neighbor. The growing ambitions of many European economies meant


that Iran was treated as a convenient ready market for foreign manufactures, and indeed cheap mass-produced imports flooded Iran throughout the 19th century This had an immediate and dramatic impact on consumer habits and on most sectors of industry It was clear that Iran needed to respond. The emergence of a few men from the court and the government became instrumental in establishing the first layer of a vast reform program. Among them were Abbas Mirza (1789-1833), the Crown Prince of Fath Ali Shah (r. 1797-1834), and Amir-Kabir (1810-1852), the prime minister of Naser al-Din Shah (r. 1848-1896). Abbas-Mirza was instrumental in forming a new Western-style army, and under his rule printing presses and newspapers came into existence. It was through the efforts of Amir-Kabir that the college modelled after Western education—Dar al-Fonun—was founded in 1851. Students were trained in many strategic disciplines, and some were sent to Europe for further studies. On their return these men were given influential positions, and eventually took part in the country's reform. The modernization of Iran soon had an impact on other aspects of life, including social behavior. The situation of women was unchanged, however, and had to wait for several decades to begin to catch up with the rest of society. In those days, the news that European women appeared in public with their faces and hair unveiled was perhaps the most noteworthy item of gossip. Iranians were particularly struck by such innovations when reports were accompanied by realistic pictures and postcards of beautiful European women with uncovered heads, ornate clothes, jewelry, and makeup (very different from the stylized depictions of


women that Iranian artists produced). This was because, at that time, all Iranian women concealed their faces and bodies with various kinds of veils and coverings when they left the privacy of their homes. Concerning this, Ruhoiiah Khaieqi wrote: "In those days [late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries] all women wore the black or dark blue chador. The most modern-minded wore a large veil, called pichah, over their faces, while the oldfashioned ones employed the ru-bandi (face covering). The former was short and the latter was long and white. Those who wore the ru-bandi also wore ankle-length baggy trousers bound tighdy at the ankles and known as chaqchur (plate 1). When people went out for a walk, one side of the street was for men and the other for women. Even husbands had to go on one side, while their wives walked on the other. If there were public performances, women were not permitted to attend or participate." 7 The veiling of women was so important that anyone who spoke of doing away with it was called a heretic. From that time until 1936, when Reza Shah's queen and daughters participated unveiled in ceremonies at a boy's college and the removal of the veil became officially sanctioned, all efforts to end the institution of purdah met with violent opposition in Iran. The period during which the prints featuring beautiful women were in fashion in Isfahan was concurrent with the period discussed above. The birth of lithography in the late 18th century and the birth of photography in the mid 19th century in Europe Ruhoiiah Khaieqi, undoubtedly had a great impact in the modernization of ^ztsh^Musiqi^i™ I f a n o n l y two decades after the birth of lithography, and The Story of Music in Iran),

Tehran, 1955, page 234.






less than a decade after the development of photography,

these two media found their way to Iran, causing great changes, by providing sudden access to the visual culture of other nations, as well as speeding communications around Iran itself. Before examining the effects of these two media on images of women, it is necessary to go back one or two centuries to see how such images had traditionally appeared in Persian houses.

The Appearance of European Women in Persian Painting Idealistic images of women have always been admired by Persians. Although not much is known about earlier presentations of such imagery in ordinary houses, more evidence is preserved in royal palaces. For centuries, royal palaces have been decorated with figural images reflecting the whole community of the buildings' inhabitants: not only kings, but soldiers, servants and entertainers, and even guests. These images depicted people, and increased the grandeur of the king's power. This visual tradition stretches far back, at least to the stone reliefs of Persepolis, and allows today's visitors to see an ancient echo of a once-lively place. Both the Ali Qapu (the palace of Shah Abbas I, r. 1588-1629, and Shah Abbas II, r. 1642—1666) and the Chehel Sotun (the palace of Shah Abbas II) in Isfahan are dramatic examples. The walls of the Chehel Sotun are adorned with images of beautiful women either alone (plate 2) or in the company of a young man, pouring wine or playing a musical instrument. 8 These remind us of the convivial pleasures of Safavid Isfahan. European painting traditions were introduced to Iran by European travelers, either through the importation of

For some examples, see Hossein Aqajani and Asghar Javani, Isfahan Safavid Wall Painting, Tehran, 2007, figs. 14-18.


[9] Cristofano dell'Altissimo (1525-1605) painted a large portrait series of famous men from world history, which includes two paintings depicting the Safavid shahs Isma'il I (inscribed "Ismael Sophy Rex Pers") and Tahmasp (inscribed "Tammas Pers"), both now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. The series was copied from an earlier portrait collection known as the Giovio Series, commissioned by the Italian humanist Paolo Giovio (1483-1582), who has been described as "the prime mover in the sixteenth-century cult of Uomini Wustri (great men): Susan J. Barnes, "The Uomini Illustri, Humanist Culture, and the Development of a Portrait Tradition in Early SeventeenthCentury Italy, " Studies in the History of Art 27 (1989), p. 81.


examples such as print illustrations, or by traveling artists themselves. At that time, Iranians had a very different concept of painting, consciously preferring refined idealism to naturalism. Before the Safavid period, they had rarely seen a completely naturalistic painting of a person's face, or a scene from nature with realistic perspective and shading. The sight of European paintings of this kind proved exciting. At the same time, there was much interest in Europe in portraits of the great rulers of Asia; this was a visual tradition going back to classical times that compared the portraits and biographies of world leaders, past and present. The features of a face were believed to show the character and ability of a great leader. So it was that "portraits" of the first two rulers of the Safavid dynasty, Shah Isma'il (r. 1501—1524) and his son, Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524—1576), were produced in Europe, such as the two paintings by Cristofano dell'Altissimo (1525—1605) copied from the Giovio Series of portraits of great figures from world history.9 In the early 17th century, Shah Abbas I (r. 1588-1629) was also much taken by European painting. As is well known, Abbas's reign introduced great economic prosperity to Iran, through his control of the silk trade. This transformed Isfahan, bringing much international business to the city. During this time, several European artists, mainly Dutch, enjoyed the shah's patronage, and their technical realism and accurate likenesses made their work very successful and influential. Shah Abbas I's successor, Shah Safi I (r. 1629-1642), was so eager to have European-style paintings that in 1635 he sent an order to Holland for special paint brushes and oil

colors in quantities said to be sufficient for one thousand painters. The representative of the Dutch East India Company in Isfahan even assigned two painters to teach the king to paint in the European manner.10 By the mid 17th century, at the time of Shah Abbas II (r. 1642—1666), several European painters were in Isfahan. Among them were the Dutch painters Hendrich Boud Ewisin Van Lockhorst, Philip Van Angel, and Ian Van Hassel. Lockhorst was an employee of the Dutch East India Company. Van Angel was also working for the Dutch East India Company, and with its permission had a painting workshop in Isfahan. He has been credited with working with some of the local painters on the murals of the Chehel Sotun Palace.11 The Spanish ambassador D o n Garcia Figueroa, who had been in Iran earlier on and at the time of Shah Abbas I, also mentions a Greek-born painter by the name of Jules who was trained in Italy and lived in Qazvin. 12 D o n Garcia also recounts having seen a house in Shiraz with images in its reception room and other rooms of several women dressed in Italian style, their hair adorned with flowers. He says: "the quality of the painting showed that they were made by Italians, perhaps sent by Venetians to the great king/' 13 Armenian painters of New Julfa (a suburb of Isfahan settled by Armenians on Shah Abbas's orders, named after Julfa in the Azarbaijan homeland of the Armenians) also exercised an important influence on the art scene of Safavid Isfahan. Christianity places a strong historic focus on figural representation, through holy images on walls and panels as well as Gospel illustrations in manuscripts, so these painters belonged to a long tradition of art

[10] Ibid., page 120. According to Tavernier, Van Angel was one of the Dutch painters who taught Shah Abbas II how to draw. See JeanBaptiste Tavernier, Recueil de plusieurs relations et traitez singuliers Sc curieux, Amsterdam, 1679, page 153.

[in Amy S. Landau, "From Poet to Painter: Allegory and Metaphor in a Seventeenth-Century Painting by Muhammad Zaman, Master of Farangi-sazi', in Muqarnas, vol. 28, issue 1, pages 120-122. [12] Don Garcia recounts having seen some beautiful paintings with women in a house near Qazvin made by Jules (Iules). He calls the style of paintings Italian because Jules had his training in Italy. See Don Garcia de Silva Figueroa, La Ambassade de D. Garcia de Silva Figueroa en Perse Contenant: La Politique de ce Grand Empire, Paris, 1667, page 205. [13] Ibid., page 111.


[14] Ruin Pakbaz, ed., Da'erat al-AIua'ref Honar (Encyclopedia of Art), Tehran, 1392/2013, page 564.


production. The Armenians would also have cultural links leading deep into Europe, and likely access to illustrated printed Bibles of the Netherlands, for example. Among the early Armenian painters was one by the name of Minas, who had studied European painting in Aleppo and returned to Isfahan. 14 By the mid 17th century, some Iranian painters, or at least those of the capital city, Isfahan, had some familiarity with Western paintings. N o t all of them adapted to this particular foreign fashion, however. Mu'in Mosawer for example, the student of Reza Abbasi, remained committed to his master's painting mode, decades after Reza's death. Others preferred to paint in the style of contemporary India, which was also very fashionable during the later Safavid period. Collaborations of European painters with Iranians and the display of their art in Isfahan's palaces and churches had left its imprint on some of the local artists. The images of Europeans on those of the Chehel Sotun Palace (plates 3 and 4) and on the walls of the house of Sukiasian (discussed below) show how much admired these painting were at the time. Although no one knows who the creators of these artworks were, they indicate that they may have been executed with the assistance of some of the local painters. European prints and drawings were also available in Safavid Iran, and these, too, were a strong influence on Iranian artists. Two of the court artists of this period, Muhammad Zaman and Ali-Quli Beyg Jabadar, both active in the mid 17th century, were most influenced by European painting style, and made efforts either to copy Western iconography or to demonstrate classical Persian themes in Western style,

and in oil colors. The term Farangi-sazi (making Europeanstyle), a hybrid mode realized by local artists, captivated the attention of the Safavid a'eyan (grandees or elite), particularly those residing in Isfahan.15 Shah 'Abbas IFs fascination with European painting convinced him to send a group of young painters to Europe for further training. Among them was Muhammad Zaman, who spent two or three years in Rome, where he converted to Christianity and changed his name to Paolo Zaman. 16 O n his return to Iran, Muhammad Zaman created several paintings, among them a female nude (plate 5). The nude female was copied from the Renaissance theme of Venus and Cupid. It is said that Zaman made the nude at the request of Shah Suleyman (r. 1666—1694).17 Zaman's Venus may be the first female nude in European style painted in Iran. Another early European female subject depicted by a Persian painter is "Woman by a Fountain," by Jabadar, done after a ^ ^ - c e n t u r y Dutch image around 165021660.18 Other European women in Safavid Persian paintings appear in two fragments of wall paintings showing women in naturalistic style executed by Muhammad Zaman around 1650—1672.19

Images of European Women in the 17th Century in Iran Numerous wall paintings on the interior and the exterior walls of the Chehel Sotun Palace indicate the success of large-scale naturalistic painting in the capital of the Safavids in the mid 17th century. There is a composite artistic construction at play, combining traditional Persian compositions and European stylistic techniques, which seems to produce an altogether new style of painting. The

[is] Amy S. Landau, "From Poet to Painter," page 103. [16] Yahya Zoka'e, "Muhammad Zaman," in Yahya Zoka'e, Negahi be negargari-ye Iran dar sadeh-haye davazdahom va sizdahome. (A look at Iranian paintings in the 12th and 13th centuries [18th and 19th centuries AD]), Tehran, 1974, pages 42-43. See also Wikipedia, s.v. "Muhammad Zaman." [17] Zoka'e, "Muhammad page 50.


[18] Layla Diba and Maryam Ekhttiar, eds., Royal Persian Painting: The Qajar Epoch 1785- 1925, New York, 1998, page 115.

[19] Ibid., pages 128-9.


development is better understood through a comparison between the wall paintings of the Chehel Sotun and Ali Qapu palaces. The wall paintings of the Ali Qapu palace, made half a century before those of Chehel Sotun, were probably produced by the court master painter Reza Abbasi, or under his supervision, 20 and all follow the idealistic style of Persian miniatures, showing none of the influence of the naturalistic paintings of the Chehel Sotun Palace. This generation of artists, however, did produce paintings of Europeans, wearing foreign costume, such as black hats and ruffs, as may be seen in the Ali Qapu murals and the single-page paintings of Reza Abbasi and his contemporaries. The Chehel Sotun Palace was completed in 1647 by Shah Abbas II, providing a venue in which he could receive guests. It is not known which artists are responsible for the wall paintings of this palace. The style of some of the paintings, especially those made on the external walls, suggests that they may have been made by a Dutch painter, and perhaps in collaboration with some Iranian artists. In some of these scenes European men and women (the men presumably diplomats or merchants) are depicted (plates 3 and 4).

The Sukiasian House Built about the same time as the Chehel Sotun, a private house in the Armenian quarter of Isfahan, now known as the Sukiasian house, contains numerous paintings, some of [ 20 ] which are in keeping with the subject of this book. N o one Aqajani and javam, Isfahan kn O W S w h 0 created these paintings. They could have been

Safavid Wall Painting, pages

120 and 121.



made by European painters or by Iranian, Armenians or

the collaboration all three. The paintings are in the style of the paintings of the exterior of the Chehel Sotun Palace. The Sukiasian house, built on 1,000 square meters of land, was intended as a ceremonial house to host the Safavid shahs and other dignitaries. The front of the house forms a big ivan with tall wooden columns on both sides, in the same style as those of the Chehel Sotun. In the many niches and spaces around the ivan, as well as inside the house, are images of the Safavid shahs and foreign dignitaries, as well as of European women. The sizes of the images vary; some of those in the ivan are about 207x69 centimeters and some are smaller, about 140x50 centimeters. Most of the images of European women are larger than life-size, shown in formal dresses, and they fill up some of the interiors and the exteriors of the niches (plates 6—15). These are among the earliest images of European women exposed to Iranians. The Sukiasian house is located in New Julfa. As mentioned above, this suburb was founded the early 17th century as an Armenian quarter by the order of Shah Abbas I. In 1606, this influential Safavid shah moved more than 150,000 Armenians from Julfa in northwest Iran to the south of Isfahan, on the other side of the Zayandeh-roud River, and the new suburb was named New Julfa. Being a Christian quarter, containing many churches, it became a favorite residential location for Western travelers.


Part II The Return of Images of Farangi Women in Iran

The turbulent situation in Iran at the end of the Safavid era (1501-1736) brought to a halt the emergence of images of female figures on the walls of royal palaces and private homes. The Afghan invasion of 1722 and the capture of Isfahan turned the golden days of the Isfahanis into fear and desperation. These disastrous events encouraged the Ottomans to take advantage of the situation, and in 1723 they invaded from the west, ravaging western Persia as far as Hamadan, while the Russians seized territories around the Caspian Sea. This situation, however, did not last long, and with the emergence of a military genius from Khorasan by the name of Nader Quli Beg (1688-1747; later Nader Shah, r. 1736—1747), all invaders were expelled, and the country was unified again. Yet in the field of art relatively little effort was made (apart from some architecture and manuscripts), as Nader was at war throughout the period of his leadership. But Nader Shah left behind a country with secure borders, which the next two dynasties were able to rule in peace. It was during these reigns of these two dynasties — the Zand dynasty (1750-1794), and the Qajar dynasty (1779-1925) - that art and artists again came to be praised, and figurative painting enjoyed further prosperity. The output of this period constitutes a distinctive art style later known as the Qajar school — a style of painting developed in the royal courts of the Zand and Qajar kings. Qajar artists based their art on large-scale human figures. This iconography is found in many colorful media: tilework, embroidered felt tent-panels, and frescoes, as well as panel paintings. Although the execution and the techniques drew from Western oil-painting traditions,


tter followed the same classic themes rincesses, lovers, and dancers. This trend about the mid 19th century, but with the lithography and photography (see below), il evolution suddenly opened up this royal :asure of the wider population.

arangi Women in Later ses >n of lithography and photography to sd with the fast-growing relations between est, and the quick expansion of foreign st every field. Cheap prints imported from Id in the bazaars of Qajar Iran, as were )ns of Britain and Russia, and many other consumer goods. The printed material n in those days, revealing the lifestyle and of Europe might take the form of news ed newspapers, fashion-plates, postcards, I series of single images, and their novelty 1 the country's culture and caught the artists and artisans in all fields.21 of all subjects was beautiful European lect that attracted artists in all fields, and s. The first appearances of Farangi women n a small scale, either in the form of winged /omen (some suggesting the appearance of xamples of these can be seen on the ceiling an building (built between 1879 and 1886) 5). Other examples of this kind of painted in be seen in other Shiraz houses. Their

[21] In the accounts of 19th-century foreign travelers and diplomats, mention is made of mansions and other Persian buildings with images of fiuropean and Persian women. In 1812, James Morier described an upper room at Qasr-e Qajar: "We found here portraits of women, I^uropeans as well as Persians," James Morier, A Second journey Through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople, Between the Years 1810 and 1816 ... (published 1818), page 227, cited in Willem Floor, Wall Paintings in Qajar [ran, Costa Mesa (California), 2005, pages 64-65. Clara Rice, an American missionary in 1923, wrote: "Persian ladies sometimes cover the walls of the andarun [women's quarters] with pictures cut from English and French illustrated papers, and find them a constant source of interest." Clara Rice, cited in Floor, Wall Paintings, page 45. Rice also noted a more complex use of prints in the 1920s in Iran: "In these old houses elaborate decoration is found. The walls and ceilings of a room may be covered with pictures and small pieces of looking-glass. The pictures used are as a rule cheap oleagraphs of well-known European pictures, many copies of the same picture being used, and they and the mirrors are embedded in the plaster, which is often highly coloured." Clara Rice, cited in ibid., page 46.


[22] For some examples, see Parviz Tanavoli, Tarikh-e Mojassameh-sazi dar Iran (History of Sculpture in Iran), vol. 1, Tehran, 2013, pages 142, 146.

[23] The palace of Maku is located in the village of Baghcheh-Jooq, in northwest Iran. Its important strategic situation bordering Turkey and Russia has always been of concern to the central government of Iran, and powerful men were appointed to control the area. The present building was built by Eqbal al-SaltanehMaku'i, one of the powerful chieftains of Muzafar al-Din Shah Qajar (1853-1907). The two-story building is on ten hectares (nearly 25 acres) of land. It is a melange of Persian and Russian styles, as are the furniture and artworks in the house. It is not knowrn whether the paintings on the ceiling and the walls were made by Persians or Russians, or through a collaboration of the two. See also Floor, Wall Paintings, page 96. [24] For more information on Suratgar, see Aydin Aghdashl, Aqa Lotf'AH Suratgar, Tehran, 1997, page 14.


creators cleverly adapted the faces of the Farangi women within traditional floral images (plates 17-23). Angels in Western iconography - that is, as nude babies ("putti") and winged girls - found their way into traditional paintings, too (plates 23 and 24), as well as appearing in paintings of Western style (plate 25). Depicting nude angels on the tombstones of the Qajar princes and Naser al-Din Shah in the mid to-late 19 th century was certainly a brave act, but it demonstrates the extent to which some Western iconography had become accepted in Iran's visual culture. 22 The next step was the appearance of nearly life-size portraits of Farangi women in paintings. In a late-19 th -century building in Maku (in northwest Iran, near the Turkish border), a few painting with portraits of Farangi women are good examples of the tastes of the time (plates 26—29). The building was made for Sardar Maku, a powerful chieftain of the area.23 Portraits of Farangi women also attracted painters in different media. Two works by the Shirazi painter Lotf 'Ali Suratgar show a young Farangi female (plate 30). O n the lower part of this painting the artist has written the following: "In the Georgian city of Tbilisi's quarter of Mamichu [strangers], a number of Russian girls were seen, all sugar lipped and sweet mouthed, whose long hair had formed a vicious circle with the hearts of their lovers, who talked of their sweetness with admiration. Work of the humble Lotf'AH Shirazi 1269 (or 1249)."24 The other painting depicts a woman wearing an old-fashioned floral hat (plate 31). At this time, a very popular theme expressed the visual encounter, as told by the poet Farid al-Din Attar with novelty. This was the narrative episode involvng

Shaykh San'an and the Christian Maiden, depicted in many media, including tiles: the woman in question is usually dressed in modern European fashion, while the besotted shaykh is in traditional clerical robes.25

Use of Original Western Prints of Images of European Women The above-mentioned developments opened the way for artists and artisans of Isfahan to take the brave new step of using images of Farangi women directly as an original print rather than copying them first from a European prototype. Throughout the nineteenth century, Europeans visited Iran in ever greater numbers, first as diplomats, then as consultants, traders, and adventurers. Many of them published accounts of their voyages, and these provide valuable records of what was to be seen at that time, although of course rendered in a thoroughly subjective manner. Fascinatingly, a survey of these sources shows that European prints were to be found "recycled" on the very walls of Iranian houses, in the royal palaces, and in governors' residences all over the country.26 We know that cheap prints from Europe were available for sale in Iran's bazaars;27 suddenly, mass-produced for European as well as Iranian consumers, the images traveled easily because of their modern appeal and great affordability. Although indeed printed onto paper, these images of fashionable ladies did not have to be confined between the covers of a book or newspaper, but could now be used and re-used in many other creative contexts. This amazing visual mobility is one of the positive outcomes of the modern age in Iran, as elsewhere. The importation of prints from different

[25] For the story of Shaykh San'an and the Christian girl, see Parviz Tanavoli, Kings, Heroes & Lovers: Pictorial Rugs from the Tribes and Villages of Iran, London, 1994, pages 45-46. [26] Willem Floor gives an extensive list of royal palaces and private homes that possessed European and Iranian images; see Floor, Wall Paintings, pages 43-208.

T h e Prussian consul who visited Iran in 1860-1861 mentions that "European prints were sold in the bazaar in Isfahan, Tehran, and Shiraz" (and so probably in most places), cited in Floor, Wall Paintings, page 122.


European countries over a long span of time coincides with a period during which vast amounts of attractive utilitarian goods of many different kinds were imported into Iran. The period from the mid to late 19th century, when these prints were made, coincided with the development of color printing in Europe, when artists at all levels experimented with the new media and produced thousands of artworks - the subject of many of them, of course, being beautiful women. The development of image-printing, first through lithography, followed by chromolithography in the third quarter of the 19th century, and then by offset printing, was so exciting that it spurred artists in all fields, including painters, print-makers, and fashion designers to produce countless images of women, some of which reached Isfahan. The variety of the prints produced in Isfahan of beautiful women resulted in a great amount of printed material, including hand-colored posters, postcards, lithographs, chromolithographs, and offset prints made by French, English, and other European artists. Images were produced for a new range of uses: fashion-plates were sold one page at a time, to publicize new dress designs. Advertisements were often illustrated, demonstrating a new clothing fashion being used to promote a product, including anything from soap to shoes. Popular series of royal portraits were produced cheaply, and in huge print-runs. An exciting modern event, such as a hot-air-balloon ascent or the opening of a grand new building, would be commemorated with a popular print. This was an age of mass media; the explosion in the print production of commercial images


was unprecedented. Cheap images were produced rapidly by artists who usually remained anonymous, and popular images and compositions were re-copied and pirated on a massive scale. Although print publishers often included the name of the artist and lithographer at the bottom of the image, the compositions themselves were regularly copied or adapted from other sources. Among the European artists making these prints, Josephine Ducollet (dates unknown) and a painter and lithographer by the name of Jean-Baptiste-Adolphe Lafosse (1810 or 1814-1879) are the most well-known and by far the most favored by the Isfahanis. The females depicted by these two artists have light complexions, rosy cheeks, delicate noses and lips, and dark hair (plates 32— 37).28 In fact, the models chosen by Ducollet and Lafosse reflected Iranians' definition of Persian female beauty. For Iranians, black, not blonde, was the most admired hair color.29 Adam Olearius, who visited Iran in 1636 and 1637, wrote that Iranians liked black hair, but had a strong aversion to red hair.30 So far, only a few pictures from Isfahan houses are from the same series of Ducollet's and Lafosse's paintings (plates 35—37). Many others, however, seem to be the work of similar commercial artists. The biographical literature about Ducollet is very scarce. All that is known is that she was born in France in the first quarter of the 19th century, studied in Paris, and produced images of beautiful women sometime between about 1850 and 1870. According to French sources, between 1846 and 1876 Ducollet created three hundred plates treating various themes, including dancers and religious subjects.31 Her

[28] For more works by Ducollet, see http://maherartgallery. josephine-ducollet.html. For more works by Lafosse, see artists/adolphe-jean-baptistea-lafosse/past-auction-results. [29] Carla Serena, Hommes et Choses en Perse, Paris, 1883, page 92. [30] Adam Olearius, The Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors, London, 1669, page 283. [31] Adhemar, Jean, and Jacques Letheve, Inventaire du Fonds francais apres 1800, vol. 7, Paris, 1954, pages 136-37.


lithographs were made in pencil and then hand-colored. She titled these as the series "Lejeune, Nouvelles etudes variees" (Lejeune, New varied studies). Lafosse, too, called his series "Nouvelles etudes variees." Indeed, Ducollet's and Lafosse's women are of the utmost stereotypical beauty: in the full bloom of youth, with light complexions and silky hair. Some of the images have mythological themes: a woman with a torch, for example, is a modern interpretation of Semiramis (plate 37). This same image is also an ancient theme found in Mesopotamia, representing Ishtar, Isis, or indeed Queen Semiramis. These were sometimes in series, featuring other famous women from mythology. The Isfahani prints of Ducollet and Lafosse must be chromolithographs made from the originals, as they bear no numbers or signatures. After a century of exposure to light, Decollet's and Lafosse's prints in Isfahan?s houses look paler compared to those preserved libraries and museums (plates 35—37).

Mirror Rooms

[32] Eleanor G. Sims, "Aina-Kari: The Practice of Covering an Architectural Surface with Mosaic Mirror Glass," Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, fasc. 7, 1984, pages 692-94.


Another creative innovation of the Isfahani artists was framing the images of Farangi women with delicate mirror mosaics to further elicit praise and admiration. The love of Iranians for mirrors, both whole and fragmented, goes beyond its practical uses, extending metaphorically to invoke light, human sight, and wisdom, which may be found in Sufi literature. 32 It is therefore no wonder that, a few decades after the invention of the glass mirror in the 16th century, this item found its way to Iran, and was put to novel uses.

The use of mirrors in Persian architecture goes back to the 16th century. Due to the rarity of mirror glass and its cost, for many centuries its use was confined to royal palaces. In nearly all Safavid palaces, including that of Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524—1576) in Qazvin, a mirror room (talar-e aayneh) seemed indispensable. Due to the abundance of mirrors in the 19th century, shrines33 and the houses of nearly all welloff people, in addition to royal palaces, had a room or part of a room decorated with mirror work. In the early mirror rooms, large mirrors were simply installed on the walls, but and by the 17th century, mirrors located in mirror rooms were treated in a variety of ways. Plaster stucco was first worked decoratively on the surface of the mirror, or paint was applied. By the 19th century, with the availability of thin mirrors, mirror mosaic (the same technique as raised-tile mosaic) was used. The majority of the houses of Isfahani dignitaries of the 19th century have a mirror room. But their mirror rooms are different from those of the royal palaces of the Qajar and Pahlavi kings in Tehran. 34 The Isfahani mirror rooms are enriched with stucco, paintings, and prints. These are also found in Kashan, in the grand houses still standing today. The carved stucco creates a low-relief composition of stylized flowers, plants, vases, and birds, among which are embedded mirrorwork panels, and of course European prints. The effect is stunning. The working drawings (preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) in the Mirza Akbar archive show us how the stucco-workers created their elaborate designs, leaving deliberate spaces for another skilled craftsman to add his work to the composition (plates 38 and 39).35

[33] Among the most elaborate Shi'ite shrines, the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad and that of his sister Fatima (Ma'sumeh) in Qom are noteworthy. See Sims, "AinaKari," pages 692-694. [34] Among the most elaborate mirror rooms is that in the Golestan Palace in Tehran. Built during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah (r. 1848-1896), under the supervision of Yahya Khan-e Mo'etamed al-Mulk. The mirror room of the Marble Palace in Tehran, built by Reza Shah Pahavi (r. 1925-1941), is the last royal mirror room. [35] item/01265395/drawingmirza-akbar/.


In these 19 th -century Isfahani houses the mirror is used to frame the prints or to create a glittering atmosphere for them. The framing of the prints is not all the same; all are symmetrical, but they are in various shapes, including columns and capitals (plate 40) and all kinds of niches (mihrab) (plate 40a). In some cases, the pictures are framed with eight-pointed stars set in diamond shapes (40b and 40c), adding further sparkle to their periphery. The most extravagant part of a dignitary's house was the reception hall (talar-e pazira'i). Here, the best members of all construction guilds, including painters, stucco-workers, woodworkers, and mirror-makers, were employed to demonstrate their abilities, with an astonishing range of techniques shown side by side, from floor to ceiling. The best section of the room - usually the northern section, a niche or an area - was even more elaborate. It was called shah-neshin (seat of the shah) and was distinguished by a silk rug or silk embroidery that was spread for the dignitary's most favored guest to sit on. A small rug intended for that purpose was called a masnad.36

The Shahshahani House The most extensive use of prints of Farangi women in Isfahan houses is found in the Shahshahani house. In its modest mirror hall, about eighty prints or postcards of Farangi women are spread all over the walls, as well as on the ceiling (plates 4 0 - 4 0 c ) . The Shahshahani house is in a quarter named for that [ 36 1 Parvi2 Tanavoli, "The Persian

family, "Mahhaleh-ye Shahshahani," on Mirza Asad-allah use of Masnad," chord, 1 < h a n S t f e e t a n d i s o n e o f t h e better-preserved Qaiar issue 9, August 1996,

pages 19-29.






buildings in Isfahan. The date of the house appears

in an inscription in stucco on the northern wall of the living room, which reads 1276 (1859-1860 AD) (plate 40d). According to the Cultural Heritage Organization of Isfahan, the house was first built by Mirza Hosein Aaqa Noqli Daroogheh (daroogheh means chief of police). It is not known whether Mr. Noqli was the chief of police in Isfahan. The house was then sold to Muhammad Javad Bazzaz (bazzaz means fabric dealer, or draper). The fabric dealer then sold the house to the family of Haj Muhammad Javad Shahshahani, the father of the present owner. According to Rahim Shahshahani, the present resident, who still lives with his family in the house, the mirror room was decorated with mirror work and prints by the fabric dealer, who imported from Europe fabric and clothing for women and received the printed posters and postcards of the European women along with the fabric. Despite intensive attempts, the author has not been able to verify exactly when the prints were added to the interior decoration of the house. According to present documents, the land of the Shahshahani house originally belonged to Mirza Asad-allah, whose name is still borne by the street on which the house is located. Mirza Asadallah was one of the administrators of Zel al-Sultan, the governor of Isfahan, who will be discussed below. Whether Mirza Asad-allah had anything to do with the prints is not certain. The Shahshahani house occupies approximately three hundred square meters, with a courtyard and a small pool. The main entrance is from the west. One first enters a hashti (anteroom). 37 There is another entrance on the east side. The shah-neshin is also built on the east side. During

[37] Hashti literally means "octagonal", and such a space functioned like a waiting room. After entering the house, visitors waited there to be received by the lord of the house.


the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the northern section of the house was damaged when the neighboring house was bombed, but it was later repaired. Despite its small size, the Shahshahani house is the richest of all houses in Isfahan for the purposes of this book. The prints come in few sizes, although due to the framing stucco-work and the reshaping those formats (into oval, round, or octagonal shapes), it is difficult to pinpoint their original formats. The largest are about 30x25 centimeters, the next group are 18x12 centimeters, and the smallest are about 8x8 centimeters. The images of the Farangi women show them in many poses, costumes, and hairstyles. The first group consists of portraits of women in various positions. A few exhibit exposed breasts (plates 41, 43, and 45) while some hold birds (plate 47), jewelry, fruit (plates 53 and 55), or flowers (plate 56). One of the prints by Ducollet (plate 42) includes colored glass beads. The next group consist of full-length images of women. They are elegantly dressed in early-^ 111 century style (plates 56—60), and seem to be presenting the fashions of the day Among this group a few are shown with elaborate hairstyles and costumes, like the fashion plates of the mid19th century (plates 65-68). Within the group of full-length figures, a small number are either unclothed or partially dressed (plates 70 and 71). One image depicts the Biblical story of Susannah and the Elders - the naughty old men who spy on the innocent and virtuous Susannah in her bath (plate 71). Another small group of the full-length images shows people either dancing (plate 72) or with their children (plate 73). Half a dozen images are slightly larger than postcard


size. Some of these are tastefully framed in a roundel (plates 75-78). Many of the postcard-size images are cleverly paired side-by-side, and framed as one image (plates 79-82).

The Zavelian House N o t far from the Sukiasian house, and in the same quarter as the Tabrizi-Armenians of Julfa, is the Zavelian house. N o w in the possession of Muhammad Qane'i, it originally belonged to the Nurian family. In the early 1870s, the Nurians sold the house to the Zavelians and migrated permanently to England. It is said that the Nurian family lived in this house for nearly three centuries, and that they acted for various English companies in trade with Iran. In the nearby church (Minas Church), a few tombstones still bear the Nurian name, one of them dated 1896. Above the entrance door of the Zavelian house, the emblem of Great Britain is noticeable (plate 83). The Zavelian house consists of two buildings. In the northern part there is a late Safavid edifice that served as the working office of the Nurians. O n the walls of the office there are a number of pictures of previous executives and British officers. Adjacent to that, to the west, is a Qajarperiod building that was used as a reception room (tahr-e pazira'i). This room is decorated with all kinds of Western paintings, probably by European artists. The themes of these paintings include European nobles in landscapes, as well as nude angels (plate 25). There are more than a dozen prints of Farangi women mounted on the walls of the lower floor and of the mezzanine of the Zavelian house. These can be divided


into two groups. The images in one group, mainly on the lower floor, are tastefully arranged in stucco and adorned with leafy scrollwork (plates 89-94). Among these, four are by Lafosse (plates 86-89). The majority of the second group are found on the upper floor. While most of them are portraits of Farangi women, three appear to be of poor street-traders, alone or accompanied by a child (plates 105—107). The rest are just pasted to the wall, enclosed in an oval or rectangular framing drawn in red (plates 96, 100—104). All except one are Farangi women wearing a lace veil or scarf on top of their heads (plates 95—99).

The House of Mushir al-Mulk

[38] Mehdi Bamdad, Sharh-e Hal-e Rejal-e Iran dar Qarn-e 12, 13 va 14 Hijri (Biography of the Dignitaries of Iran inthel8 t h ,19 l h , and 20th Centuries), Tehran, 1956, vol. 4, page 92.


The house of Mushir al-Mulk is one of the largest in Isfahan (plates 108 and 109). It consists of five buildings on four thousand square meters of land. The origin of the plans lies in Savafid times, but the present house was built by Mushir al-Mulk Ansari, the chief minister of Zel al-Sultan (1850-1918), governor of Isfahan. Zel alSultan (meaning shadow of the shah) was the eldest son of Naser al-Din Shah (r. 1848-1896), and governor of Isfahan for thirty-four years. He is remembered as a cruel and authoritarian figure.38 The Mushir al-Mulk house is one of many for which Zel al-Sultan killed people in order to acquire, thus feeding his insatiable hunger for wealth. After killing his chief minister, he gave the house to the Austrians as their headquarters, and the neighboring house to the Austrian army, and claimed to be the shah of Iran. But soon there after he renounced that claim and asked for forgiveness, and was restored again.

After the fall of the Qajar dynasty in 1925, the house was sold to Haj Hossein Charmi, a well-established leather merchant. Since then it has been known as the Leatherer's house (khaneh-ye charmi). During the Iran-Iraq War (1980—1988), the house was allocated for the war refugees of Khuzistan and sustained major damage. It is now in the process of being turned into the Museum of Islamic Art of Isfahan. The Mushir al-Mulk house has two mirror halls. The smaller one is said to have been reserved for Zel al-Sultan's private visits. The walls and the ceiling of this room are covered with mirror mosaics and prints of Farangi women, placed both sporadically and regularly (plates 110—114) These are from the late 19th century, and show such sentimental scenes as a small child weeping over her dead canary. O n the ceiling there are four depictions of the Austrian emperor and the heads of other countries, including Naser al-Din Shah. Above one of the doors is a portrait of an Austrian general and his wife and child (plate 115). Although most of the images are severely damaged, some of those of Farangi women in this room are still in place (plates 112-114). The main reception room of the Mushir al-Mulk house the largest reception room in Isfahan (plate 116) - contains more than a dozen pictures of Farangi women (plates 117— 119), though some of them are severely damaged. Treacher Collins, who was in Isfahan in the late 19th century, visited another house of Zel al-Sultan (now turned into a museum of contemporary art), and wrote that in Zel al-Sultan's hunting lodge the main room "was covered with colored prints of European ladies."39

[39] E. Treacher Collins, In the Kingdom of the Shah, London, 1896, page 240, cited by Floor, Wall Paintings, page 86.


The Homa'i House This late Qajar house is located in Pa-Qal'e, one of the oldest districts of Isfahan. Today it is the guesthouse of the Farhangestan Adab va Zaban Farsi (Academy of Farsi Letters and Languages). The historian Jalal al-Din Homa'i (1889—1980) was born in the house, where he lived until the age of forty. The one-story building contains a few family rooms and a large living room decorated with exquisite wall paintings and painted stucco (plates 120 and 121). There are only a few images of Farangi women in the Homa'i house, tastefully pasted to the walls and adorned with painted frames. The appearance of these women is different from those in the Shahshahani house. These are not as provocative - and are dressed more conventionally, in typical late-19 th century fashions, one of them wearing a lace scarf over her head and shoulders (plate 122) and the other one a hat (plate 123). In one of the rooms, now a guest room, there is a framed picture depicting a woman with three female children (plate 124). She is gently holding the youngest child, and reading a book to them. Underneath the picture are printed words including the tide "The Convalescent." Late Victorian taste often preferred cosy scenes celebrating motherhood and childhood in this way.

Trays The love of Iranians for images of Farangi women was not confined to prints for decorating the walls, but included other items. In those days, any product that depicted a Farangi women was eagerly sought after. The European manufactures of platters, teapots, trays, and so forth, aware of this fashion, received special orders from Iran.


Among all the items, metal trays depicting Farangi women were the most favored. These trays were available in all sizes: larger ones were designed to carry food and fruits (plates 125—128) and the smaller ones, about 19x14 centimeters, were used to hold tea glasses (esteka) (Iranians use a glass for tea rather than a cup) (plates 129 and 130). One of the sources for these trays was Zhostovo in Russia. Zhostovo was also the name used for an old Russian folk handicraft that involved painting images on metal trays, which still exists in the village of Zhostovo near Moscow (in Moscow Oblast). It has flourished since the early 19th century, mainly under the influence of the Ural handicraft of flower painting on metal. The subsequent development of the Zhostovo painting handicraft followed the same stylistic traditions.


Part III The Iranian Contribution

Farangi W o m e n on Rugs and Other Media The advent of photography and illustrated materials had an enormous influence on other media, including rugs, other textiles, and tiles. Portraits of Farangi women started to appear on carpets around the turn of the 20 th century, and represent an important segment of pictorial carpet art, possessing some of the qualities of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. In order to understand this aspect of the depiction of Farangi women in Iran, a brief survey of the history of Iranian pictorial rugs will be useful. Pictorial rugs appeared in Iran during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah (1848-1896), initially in the urban rugweaving centers, including Kerman, Tabriz, Kashan, and Isfahan. The city rug-weavers would begin their work with a cartoon made by a commercial artist. Designers of pictorial rugs usually selected their subjects from paintings or photographs, and drew them on squared paper on the same scale as the rugs themselves (each square representing a rug knot). The painted cartoon was then given to the weaver. From this cartoon a number of rugs more or less similar to each other were usually woven. The subjects of city rugs are abundant and diverse. Most, however, consist of scenes from classical Iranian love stories, portraits of the shahs and dervishes, or other Iranian subjects.40 Tribal and village weavers, who had no access to rug cartoonists, either borrowed a city-woven pictorial rug and copied it, or worked directly from a pictorial curtain or a large photograph. By glancing at the model periodically, the [ 40 ] weaver would be given sufficient guidance for her own rug. For examples of these rugs, mxcept [n cities, the weavers were all women.) In fact, she see Parviz Tanavoii, Kings,

Heroes Sc Lovers,,






would not copy her model exactly, but improvised her own

version of the colors, motifs, and general composition. This improvisation is one of the most important differences between the city rugs and the tribal and village rugs. The city weaver, in fact, was only an executer of the design, since everything was arranged and planned by a professional designer in advance, and followed without deviation by the city weaver. But the tribal and village weavers were free to vary aspects of the design as they saw fit.

Fatima Until recently, a color picture based on a European painting of the face of an idealized beautiful woman could often be seen in Iranian homes, shops, and tea houses (plate 134). These pictures were sometimes woven into rugs, in accordance with the wishes either of the weavers or of customers who placed special orders for the rugs. Rugs depicting the face of this beautiful woman at a large scale, dominating the entire field of the rug, constitute a small group of pictorial rugs. Although in recent years pictures of beautiful women have been woven into carpets, there is a special reason behind the weaving of that particular early image. For a long time it was the image most favored by rug weavers, and it was called Fatima (plates 135—138). In the absence of concrete knowledge of the origins of that chromolithograph portrait of this unknown woman (plate 134), which inspired a number of pictorial rugs made in various parts of Iran from the late 19th to the mid-20 th century, several speculative stories have circulated in different parts of the Middle East. In Iran it has been suggested that she is perhaps a Turk painted by a European during the late 19th century. Others


[41] Ferhad Pirbal/'The Mona Lisa of Kurdistan," in Kurdish Globe, 21 st June 2007, Erbil (Iraq). [42] Ibid. [43] I am grateful to Sarah B. Sherrill for this information.


have believed her to represent Belkis, the Queen of Sheba, whose beauty and connection with King Solomon are famous. The Kurds of Iraq call her Kichi-Kafrosh, or the Mona Lisa of Kurdistan. According to their sources, KichiKafrosh was so beautiful and magnificent that in the early 20 th century it was hard to find a Kurdish home without a painting of her hanging on the wall in at least one room. 41 Today, every Kurd knows about Kichi-Kafrosh, whose name has become an idiom by which beautiful Kurdish girls are described. It is often said: "She is as beautiful as KichiKafrosh." The Kurds believe she was a Kurdish woman. 42 Up to the 1930s, chromolithographs of this kind (plate 134) were printed in Germany for various foreign markets. That this may yield more solid information about this particular print of an idealized female beauty with Western features and complexion and pseudo-Turkish costume is suggested by the fact that chromolithographed portraits of exotic beautiful women were featured on packaging and advertisements for cigarettes from the late 19th century to the 1930s, as an overt lure to the male consumer. One of the many exotically named American brands that capitalized on the popularity of Turkish and Egyptian cigarettes was, in fact, also called Fatima (plates 131—133). This brand was first registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in February 1898 by Cameron and Cameron, later succeeded by Liggett and Myers, who kept the brand in use until at least the late 1940s.43 Although the exact same picture of Fatima in plate 134 has not been found on cigarette pack or advertisements, a similar image, also called "Fatima," appears on some Kerman rugs, such as that depicted in plate 135, and is adapted in

the tribal and village rugs in plates 136-138 - and with the same name but different features in the cigarette advertisements in plates 131-133. A British brand of a Turkish or Egyptian type of cigarette from about 1900 called Crayol - features a chromolithograph of a similar lush female portrait which, like the one titled at the edge of the lithograph depicting Fatima (plate 134),44 suggests the turn of the 20 th century. Whatever its specific origins, the image in plate 134 has inspired a group of pictorial carpets made in Kerman and by the villagers and tribal weavers of southeast and northeast Iran. The oldest example, dating to the late 19th century, was made in Kerman (plate 135). This rug, or a similar example, traveled more than a thousand miles through various villages and tribal areas. Plate 136 was made by the Baluch people of Khorasan (in northeast Iran) and plate 137 was made by the Baluch of Zabol (in the southeast). It is admirable how the weaver of this rug incorporated the same format into a larger rug, and filled up the rest with her traditional motifs. The most interesting one, however, is plate 138, which was made in exactly the same proportions as the model, yet by reversing the model both horizontally and vertically created a medallion. Obviously the weaver was aware of playing cards (compare plates 138 and 139), and by duplicating her model upside down created not only a perfect medallion but also an oeuvre d'art inspired by a playing card.

Farangi Women on Rugs, Qalamkats,

and Tiles

Another female subject whose full-length portrait has been woven into rugs is a Farangi woman carrying a

[44] Dreams and sweet seductions were all used to lure the purchaser. If the scantily clad pin-ups and femmes fatales on the packaging were insufficient, then the smoker was implicitly offered access to the exotic mysteries of Middle Eastern harems, pyramids, and palm trees.


basket of flowers. She seems to have been of interest only to one Bakhtiari khan, Yusuf Khan Amir Mujahed, who ordered rugs with images of this woman in different poses. In the rug depicted in plate 140, a standing woman is portrayed holding a basket of flowers in her hand, with a dog standing in front of her. In another rug a similar woman is shown with her hands in her hair (plates 142 and 142a) and in yet another rug she has the same pose but stands between two other women whose clothes are of the Qajar period. 45 The latter rug is very large, and is one of a very limited number of pictorial rugs woven to be used as a floor covering by Yusuf Khan Amir Mujahed (the youngest son of Husayn Quli Khan, a great Bakhtiari chief, who died about 1938). According to his son, Rostam Bakhtiar, it is believed that the three above-mentioned rugs were ordered by his father for a particular family residence known as the Shamsabad Villa, in the village of Shamsabad, eighteen kilometers south of Shahr-i Kurd. Rostam Bakhtiar remembers seeing these very weavings during his youth. Despite all of the destruction it has seen, this building still retains a special quality. It contains two large rooms and several small ones. The large rug was spread out in the center of one of the large rooms, and the smaller rugs were hung on the wall. Rostam Bakhtiar felt that the source of inspiration for the rugs in plates 140 and 142 might possibly have been a European postcard (similar to plate 141), because in his father's day it was the fashion in Iran to collect European postcards in albums, j 45 j and his father possessed such albums. For this rug, see Tanavoii, With the coming of the large color photographs, posters, Kings, Heroes Sc Lovers, page 265.







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and so forth, this type of rug has gradually lost its honored place on the walls of homes and shops, and has been

relegated to the floor, causing some of these rugs to have become woefully worn and torn. Farangi women attracted makers of other textiles, including qalamkars (wood-block-printed and painted cotton hangings). Traditionally qalamkar makers made hangings to be used as curtains or to cover the closets that were built into the walls. The pictorial fashion first attracted the attention of the rug weavers, and then of the qalamkar makers. Prior to this fashion, qalamkar designs more or less emulated floral rug designs, often using wood blocks on cotton fabric. With the growth in availability of European printed images, the depiction of European women became a qalalmkar subject, and employed the qalamkar techniques of wood-block printing and paint. Plate 143 is among the pictorial qalamkars showing Farangi women. The most uncommon, however, are two qalamkars depicting a rather erotic scenes (plates 144 and 146). This scene, although known in European painting as depicting an odalisque (deriving from the Turkish word odalic, meaning chambermaid: a Turkish harem concubine), shows a nude or seminude harem woman in a reclining position, usually being entertained by a slave.46 Nearly all Orientalist artists have reproduced this scene. Perhaps the most famous example is the work of the 1 ^-century French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780—1867) (plate 145). But another qalamkar with a similar theme (plate 146), may have been inspired by a French postcard, such as plate 147. Tile-makers, too, were inspired by images of Farangi women. Although some copied images directly from European sources (plates 148—153), others tried to Persianize the subject by borrowing the pose or the costume from

[46] For more information on odalisque, see http:/


European prints or trays, and usually giving the face and hairstyle an Iranian appearance. The rise of Reza Shah (r. 1925-1941) and his attempts to Westernize the country gradually reduced the attraction of the Farangi women for Persians, but it did not fully die out. Today it is still not unusual to see images of Farangi women in houses and shops. For several hundred years now, these images of women have found a home in Iran. Borrowed from different contexts and historical periods, they have acquired new dimensions of meaning, as loan-words in the great decorative vocabulary of Iran.



[1] Persian woman, unknown photographer, c. 1900.


[2] Mural painting, tempera on plaster, Chehel Sotun Palace, Isfahan, mid 17th century.


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[58] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.





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[59] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century


[60] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.

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[61] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [62] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[63] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [64] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[65] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [ 66 ] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[67] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.

[68] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.




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[69] Fashion model, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [70] Woman bathing, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


M [ 71 (previous double-page spread)] Woman bathing (representing the Biblical story of Susannah and the Elders), chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [72] Dancing, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [73] Women and children, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[74] People and dogs, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century [75] Man and woman in landscape, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[76] Man and woman in landscape, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [77] European women and parrot, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[78] European woman, chromolithograph, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.

[79] Women in various poses, chromolithographs, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[ 80 1 Women in various poses, chromolithographs, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [81] Women in various poses, chromolithographs, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [ 82 (next page) ] Women in various poses, chromolithographs, Shahshahani house, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.




Zavalian House

[83] Emblem of Great Britain above entrance door of Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, 19th century. [84] Courtyard of Zavelian House, N e w Julfa, Isfahan. [ 85 (next page)] Interior of Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan.

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[86] Jean-Baptiste-Adolphe Lafosse, young woman, from Nouvelles etudes variees^ chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, mid 19th century.


[ 87, 88 ] Jean-Baptiste-Adolphe Lafosse, young women, from Nouvelles etudes chromolithographs, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, mid 19th century.





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[89] Jean-Bap tiste-Adolphe Lafosse, Semiramis, from Nouvelles etudes variees, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, mid 19th century.


[90] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, New Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.



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[91] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [92] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.




[93] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [94] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[95] Young woman with veil, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.

[96] Young woman with veil, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.





[ 97, 98 ] Young women with veils, chromolithographs, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.

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[ 99,100 ] Young women with veils, chromolithographs, Zavelian house, New Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19tl1 century.


[101] Young woman with veil, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[102] Young woman with veil, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, New Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.

[103] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[104] Young woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, New Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


[ 105,106 ] Country women, chromolithographs, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century. [107] Country woman, chromolithograph, Zavelian house, N e w Julfa, Isfahan, middle to third quarter of 19th century.


Mushir al-Mulk House

[108] Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century. [109] Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century.



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[ 110 (previous page) ] European women, Mirror Room, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century. [Ill] European women, Mirror Room, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century. [112] European woman, Mirror Room, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century.

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[113] European woman, Mirror Room, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century. [114] European women, Mirror Room, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century.



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[115] Entrance door (with portrait of an Austrian general and his wife and child) of the Mirror Room, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century.






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[ 116 (previous page) ] Reception hall, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century. [117] Young woman, offset print, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, mid 19th century. [118] Young woman, offset print, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, late 19th century.


[119] Young woman, offset print, Mushir al-Mulk house, Isfahan, late 19th century.


Homa'i House


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