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Khalili, Nasser D. (1988) Persian lacquer painting in the 18th and 19th centuries. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Lacquer, as a medium for artistic expression, was not readily chosen by Persian artists before the late Safavid period. It was during the Qajar period that delicately painted miniatures on various surfaces drew the attention of the European market to the talent of Persian artists. Although some well known scholars have devoted their time to document artefacts from this period, a systematic study of the techniques and stylistic developments has not yet been produced. The purpose of this thesis is to fill this gap. Qalamdans, mirror cases, book covers and enamels painted by both well known and less well known artists were selected and compared and, with the aid of comparative material, a chronology of stylistic development was established. Attention has been paid to the way artists related to the various surfaces to be decorated, their handling of figural representations, floral depictions and other naturalistic elements, and the influence of the Islamic heritage on the choice of subject matter. The qualitative treatment of large surfaces, such as canvas or walls, and small surfaces, such as qalamdans, book covers and mirror cases was strikingly different. While the figural representations which are depicted on small surfaces and based on foreign models are both delicate and dynamic, those based on live models, such as the ruler or patron or even battle scenes, appear to be stiff. The treatment of perspective is also notably different. It is virtually absent in large pictures, but invariably present on qalamdans and mirror cases. The European influence is discernable in most of the paintings, but each artist introduced his individual approach to the stylistic execution of the subject matter. Artists on the whole preferred to keep the technique of colour preparation to themselves or to hand down the knowledge to their students orally. Interviews were conducted with a number of Persian artists who were willing to provide information about some of the techniques practised by their predecessors, thereby enabling us to gain a valuable insight into the methods used by artists in the Qajar period. Last, but not least, the historical environment and patronage which undoubtedly influenced artists also received considerable attention.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04

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