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Gallery Text

Mirza Abu’l Hassan (1776–1845) was the ambassador of the shah of Persia to the court of King George III in London, sent in 1809 to help negotiate a treaty of alliance to counter growing French influence. Although he stayed in England for less than a year, he became a figure of fascination — the subject of portraits, popular prints, and even poetry. A contemporary noted that “the Persian ambassador is the principal thing talked of now.” His official host was Gore Ouseley, a diplomat and linguist who had lived and worked in India. Ouseley commissioned this portrait from Thomas Lawrence, one of the leading British portraitists of the day. Abu’l Hassan, who kept a journal during his time in London, reported that Lawrence painted the portrait in four sittings. Ouseley accompanied Abu’l Hassan on

his return to Persia to finalize the treaty, bringing the painting with him.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Thomas Lawrence, English (Bristol, England 1769 - 1830 London, England)
Mirza Abu'l Hassan Khan
Work Type
Level 2, Room 2120, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Lure of the East
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 69.2 cm (35 x 27 1/4 in.)
frame: 117.2 x 97.2 x 10.2 cm (46 1/8 x 38 1/4 x 4 in.)
Commissioned by Sir Gore Ouseley, 1810, bequest; to Sir Frederick A. Gore Ouseley (his son), 1844, bequest; to St. Michael's College, Tenbury, 1889, sold [through A. T. Barber and Co., Ltd., Windsor]; to [Vicar Bros., London, 1919], sold; to [Leggatt Bros., London, 1927], sold (?); to [Jacques Seligmann & Co., Paris]; to William Chadbourne, New York, 1927, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1964.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of William M. Chadbourne
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

E. E. Williams, The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Kt. (London, England, 1831), vol. II, pps. 55-56

[Catalogue from Worcester Exhibition], exh. cat. (Worcester, England, 1882), no. 34

Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Romney and Lawrence, Scribner and Welford (New York, NY, 1882), p. 118

Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, with a catalogue of the artist's exhibited and engraved works, compiled by Algernon Graves., Goupil, J. Boussod, Manzi, Joyant, and successors (London, England and New York, NY, 1900), p. 150

Sir Walter Armstrong, Lawrence (New York, NY, 1913), p. 138

Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Routledge and Paul (London, England, 1954), p. 50, pl. 65

Kenneth Garlick, A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings and Pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Glasgow University Press (Glasgow, Scotland, 1962 - 1964), p. 144

Charles W. Millard, "A Diplomatic Portrait: Lawrence's 'The Persian Ambassador' ", Apollo (February 1967), vol. LXXXV, pps. 115-122; repr. in color plate III, p. 116

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 18

Sir Denis Wright, The Persians Amongst the English: episodes in Anglo-Persian History, I. B. Tauris (London, England, 1985), see chapter 6, "Envoy Extraordinary"

M. M. Cloake, A Persian at the Court of King George, 1809-1810 (London, England, 1988), pps. 254, 275

Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, Phaidon Press (Oxford, England, 1989), no. 8, p. 133, repr. pl. 55

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 64, color plate; pp. 115, 146, repr. b/w cat. no. 37

Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portrait of an Age, 1790-1830, Art Services International (Alexandria, VA, 1993), no. 1, p. 20, repr. in color

Layla S. Diba, ed., Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925, exh. cat., I. B. Taurus Publishers/Brooklyn Museum of Art (Brooklyn, NY, 1998), no. 49, pp,197-198, repr. in color

Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford and New York, NY, 2002), repr. p. 41 as fig. 22

"Colonial-Era Silver and Shawls from India on Display", Antiques and the Arts Weekly (August 26 2005), p. 28, repr. p. 28

Michael Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Yale University Press (New Haven and London, 2005), pp. 152, 154, 316, repr. p. 153 pl. 86, detail repr. p. 316, pl. 171

Susan Jenkins and Steven Parissien, Compton Verney: The History of the House and Grounds at Compton Verney, Scala Publishers Ltd. (London, 2010), p. 91, mentioned under cat. no. 50

A. Cassandra Albinson, ed., Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art (New Haven/London, 2010), cat. 36, ill.

Exhibition History

The Worcester Exhibition, [Unknown venue, Worcester England], Worcester, 01/01/1882 - 12/31/1882

Unidentified Exhibition, Harvard Club of New York, 1965, Harvard Club of New York City, New York, 01/01/1965 - 01/31/1965

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967

English Portraits in New England Collections, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, 10/01/1972 - 10/29/1972

Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977

Sir Thomas Lawrence, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 02/27/1993 - 04/25/1993; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 05/15/1993 - 07/11/1993; Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Richmond, 07/31/1993 - 09/26/1993

Royal Persian paintings : the Qajar epoch, 1785-1925, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, 10/23/1998 - 01/24/1999; Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, 02/24/1999 - 05/09/1999; Brunei Gallery, London, 07/05/1999 - 09/26/1999

The Portrait, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/15/2004 - 01/09/2005

Silver and Shawls: India, Europe, and the Colonial Art Market, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/27/2005 - 01/29/2006

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, National Portrait Gallery, London, 10/21/2010 - 01/23/2011; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 02/24/2011 - 06/05/2011

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2120 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu