Technologies of the Image: Art in 19th-Century Iran

, University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
  • Pen Box with Nasir al-Din Shah and His Court; and Rulers from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) by Firdawsi
  • Pen Box with Portrait Medallions on Floral Ground
  • Mirror Case with Flowers, Hazelnuts, Birds, and Butterflies
  • Mirror Case with Flowers and Birds
  • Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar
  • Pen Box with Figures in Indoor and Outdoor Settings, and Medallions
  • Album of Photographs by `Ali Khan Vali
  • An Unidentified Qajar Gentleman
  • Folio 2 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Blank page (recto); Birds, flowers, and butterflies (verso)
  • Folio 21 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Three drawings of figures in European dress (recto); Study sheet with flowers and female portraits and figures (verso)
  • Folio 41 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Four sheets: Pen box design with reclining females and attendants in landscape (top), Portrait bust of Muhammad Shah Qajar (center), European woman with bouquet and shawl (center), Pen box design with reclining females and attendants in landscape, divided by medallions (bottom) (recto); The Binding of Isaac (verso)
  • Folio 18 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Two draings: The meeting of Shams-i Tabrizi and Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi (top), Shaykh San`an and the Christian Maiden (bottom)
 (recto); Zulaykha's maids cut themselves, overcome by Yusuf's beauty (verso)
  • Pen box with scenes from Nizami's tale of Bahram Gur and the Seven Princesses
  • Pen Box with the Virgin and Child
  • Pen Box with Shaykh San`an and the Christian Maiden
  • Pen box with medallions on floral ground
  • Pen Box with Reclining Women and Female Portraits in Medallions
  • Muzaffar al-Din Shah Qajar
  • Folio 42 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Virgin and Child with attendants (recto); Three sheets framed by colored paper borders: bust-length portrait of men and women (verso)
  • Pen Box with Portrait Medallions on Floral Ground
  • Pen Box with Persian Women in Medallions
  • Mirror Case with the Virgin and Child with Attendants
  • Small Qur'an with Lacquer Covers
  • Snuff box with lovers discovered
  • Muhammad Ibrahim Khan Saham al-Mulk, Commander of the Isfahan Division
  • Pen Box with Women, Men, and Children in Domestic Scenes
  • Muhammad Shah Qajar
  • Destroyed Palace in Rasht
  • The Persian Family (La famille persane)
  • Folio 3 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Medallion with portrait bust of a European woman, enclosed in symmetrical composition of scrollwork, birds, flowers, and butterflies 
 (recto); Hunter with falcon, hound, and rifle (verso)
  • Folio 49 from an Album of Artsts' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Lovers discovered (recto); Two hands of Fatima (verso)
  • Folio 30 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Three sheets: Pen box design with perspectival architectural landscape divided by medallions (top), Bahram Gur visiting a princess (center), Pen box design with audience scene divided by medallions (bottom) 
 (recto); Blank page (verso)
  • Pen Box with European Woman and Eagles in Medallions
  • Mirror Case with Scenes of a Baby Boy's Birth and Circumcision
  • An Album of Persian Paintings and Drawings
  • Mirza Zayn al-`Abidin
  • Large Book Covers with Entertainment Scenes on a Terrace
  • Large Box with Fath ʿAli Shah Seated on the Sun Throne (Takht-i khurshīd)
  • The Persian Family
  • Taʿzīya performers
  • Folio 10 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Hero on horseback fighting a dragon (recto); Couple entertained on a terrace by musicians and dancers (verso)
  • Folio 6 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Virgin and child with elderly men and attendants (recto); Amorous couple with attendants, baby, rabbits, and birds (verso)
  • Folio 56 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Bird and floral design for a pen box (recto); Two sheets: Study of a rose; Study of an iris (verso)
  • Pen Box with Reclining European Women and Female Portraits
  • Pen Box with Amorous Couples and Portrait Medallions
  • Illustrated Manuscript of poetry by Maktabi Shirazi, Vahshi Bafqi, and Naw’i Khabushani
  • Illustrated Manuscript of the Gulistān (Rose Garden) by Sa`di
  • `Ali, Hasan, and Husayn
  • Standing Courtier
  • Rectangular Mirror Case with Flowers, Butterfly, and Sleeping Bird (ext.); Flowers and Butterfly (int.)
  • Octagonal Mirror Case with Virgin and Child
  • Large Book Cover with Enthronement Scenes of Fath ʿAli Shah and Muhammad Shah
  • Pen Box with Seated and Reclining Women
  • Procession with Portrait of Muhammad ʿAli Shah at the Opening of the Parliament in Tehran
  • Folio 7 from an Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran: Embracing couple on terrace, attended by servants, dancers, and musicians (recto); Standing woman with headscarf (verso)
On View Locate on Floor Plan University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

The 19th century was an era of heightened image-making in Iran. As the century unfolded, the new Qajar dynasty sought to unify a country torn by decades of civil war, even as the outside world increasingly intruded on Iranian affairs. The expansionist ambitions and technological advances of European powers brought Westerners to Iran and, to a later and lesser extent, drew Iranians to the West. Stimulated and challenged by developments both inside and outside their country, Persian artists mastered new image-making technologies and readily assimilated an unprecedented influx of pictorial material from abroad into their traditional art forms.

This exhibition brings together four principal art forms—lacquer, lithography, photography, and painting and drawing on paper—to explore their separate and intertwined histories, contexts of production, and means of dissemination across sectors of society ranging from the courtly elite to the citizenry at large. The almost 80 works in the exhibition, most of which have never before been exhibited, include illustrated books, album folios, pen boxes, mirror cases, single-sheet painted and printed images, and photographs. Several of the objects are on loan from collections within Harvard University and from private and public collections in the United States and abroad. Many of the Qajar era’s most interesting and accomplished artists are represented in the exhibition, including Abu al-Hasan Ghaffari Saniʿ al-Mulk, Antoin Sevruguin, Mubarak Mirza b. Mahmud, Mirza ʿAli Quli Khaw’i, Muhammad Ismaʿil, Muhammad Riza al-Imami, and members of the Najaf ʿAli circle of lacquer artists.

Co-curated by Mary McWilliams, the Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard Art Museums; and David J. Roxburgh, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Islamic Art History at Harvard University.

The accompanying exhibition catalogue features essays by co-editors David J. Roxburgh and Mary McWilliams as well as by Farshid Emami and Mira Xenia Schwerda, Ph.D. candidates at Harvard University and collaborators on the project.

An additional publication, An Album of Artists’ Drawings from Qajar Iran, edited by David J. Roxburgh, is also available. The book is a compendium of the nearly 150 beautiful drawings, paintings, and a print that make up the Harvard Qajar Album. Several works from the album will be displayed in the exhibition.

This project has been made possible in part by the Curatorial Support Fund established by Stan and Norma Jean Calderwood.

Related Programming
Information about related events, including a lecture on Wednesday, September 13, by scholars Mary McWilliams (Harvard Art Museums), Farshid Emami (Oberlin College), and Mira Xenia Schwerda (Harvard University), as well as a series of gallery talks, can be found in our calendar.