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    BOC Gallery



Like many of the paintings influenced by Safavid artists Riza Abbasi and Mu'in Musavvir, the composition of this painting consists of a portrait of an elderly man in contemplation, rendered in fine black-ink brushwork with subdued colour highlighting elements of the painting. Inside his robe, the man conceals two books, which would suggest his status as a scholar or a sage.

This compositional style was intended for inclusion in an album, rather than an illustration to a particular narrative, and there is a great deal of debate surrounding the social and political conditions that gave rise to this new form of art production. Certain scholars argue that the end of Shah Tahmasp’s patronage of artists at the court in 1556 caused painters to disperse in search of other patrons. Single-folio compositions, in contrast to entire illustrated manuscripts, such as this one, could be more easily sold to patrons whose pockets were not as deep as those of the Safavid Shah.

Safavid Iran (Isfahan), 17th century
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper

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