Woman Holding a Rose

Woman Holding a Rose
(click image to zoom-in)
Painting, Oil on canvas, 184x94 cm
Origin: Iran, First quarter of the 19th century, Qajar Dynasty

Before us is some inmate of an Iranian ruler's harem, her beauty recalling the image of Layla in Nizami's famous poem, Layla and Majnun:

"But the flutter of her lashes

Pierces the heart and throws us down...

Her rosy cheeks, her beauty spots, the dark eyes -

All will tomorrow be stars in the night sky?"

With an elegant gesture of her hands, painted red with henna according to tradition, the woman coquettishly holds a rose and a glass of sherbet. From this picture we gain a detailed idea of typical court dress during the first quarter of the 19th century. A transparent slip with a slit reveals the naked body beneath, while a typical striped jacket is worn over the top. The extremely broad trousers are woven with a large repetitive pattern.

There is no sense of depth, this flatness being typical of oil painting during the early Qajar period. The real merits of the Teheran artists working at the court of the Qajar dynasty during the first quarter of the 19th century lay in the detailed depiction of clothes and still life. Note, for instance, the transparent brushstrokes which convey the airiness of the scarf and the milky glass of the bottle on the ledge.

Source of entry: First Branch of the State Hermitage Museum, 1925
Exibition: Art and Culture of the Near and Middle East: 3rd - 19th centuries

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