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Painting - Portrait of Nadir Shah

Portrait of Nadir Shah

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Isfahan (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1740 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Muhammad Riza Hindi (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in oil colour on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by G. J. Welford

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This painting is a portrait of Nadir Shah Afshar, one of the most important figures in Iranian history of the last 300 years. Nadir Shah began as a tribal leader. He tried to used his forces to restore order after the Afghan invasion of his country in 1722. At first, he worked in the name of members of the previous dynasty, the Safavids. In 1736, however, he declared himself shah, and he ruled with some success until his assassination in 1747.

One of Nadir Shah's most famous achievements was the invasion of the Mughal empire in what is now Pakistan and northern India. He defeated the Mughal army in 1739 and seized the capital, Delhi. Among the loot he acquired was the Mughal emperor's jewels, which are still kept in the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran.

This is one of only two portraits of Nadir Shah in oils that survive. The Shah is shown wearing jewelled armbands, which are thought to be from the Mughal treasure. The carpet on which he sits is also Mughal. The painting is therefore attributed to the period after his invasion of the Mughal empire in 1739. There are some resemblances between this painting and watercolour portraits of Nadir Shah and a young man, probably Nadir Shah's son, by the painter Muhammad Riza Hindi.

Physical description

Painting, in oil colour on canvas, portrait of Nadir Shah.

Place of Origin

Isfahan (probably, made)


ca. 1740 (made)


Muhammad Riza Hindi (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in oil colour on canvas


Height: 179 cm, Width: 116.5 cm, Weight: 60 kg Rough estimate of weight framed and glazed

Object history note

"There are two portraits of Nadir in London, one being at the India Office, and the other at the India Museum, South Kensington; although it is known that they are both by XVIIIth century Persian artists, it is impossible to say whether they are really contemporary. Mr. Henry Vansittart, who was Governor of Fort William from 1760 to 1767, acquired the portrait that is now in the India Office; it was reputed, in his time, to be an original. His son, the Rt. Hon. Nicholas Vansittart, presented this picture to the East India Company in February, 1822.[1] The history of the India Museum portrait (No. I.M.20-1919) cannot be traced as far back; it is said to have been brought from India in 1800 or possibly a little earlier; it was for a long time in the possession of the Willoughby family, and was presented to the India Museum by G. F. Welsford, M.D., in 1919. The head in this portrait is similar in every detail to that in the India Office picture. Mr. C. Stanley Clarke, of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in a letter to Mr. (now Sir) W. Foster dated the 3rd June 1919, stated that "Both paintings are Persian of bad period---strongly European influenced."

1. See the Descriptive Catalogue of the Paintings, Statues, etc., in the India Office, by Sir William Foster.

Quoted from L. Lockhart, Nadir Shah: A Critical Study Based Mainly Upon Contemporary Sources, London: Luzac & Co., 1938, pp. 277--8.

Dalrymple, William and Sharma, Yuthika (eds). Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857. New York : Asia Society ; New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780300176667 ; 030017666X. p. 88-89, cat. no. 17.

Descriptive line

Painting, portrait of Nadir Shah seated on the ground, oil on canvas, Isfahan, ca. 1740

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925, edited by Layla S. Diba, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, 1998, pp. 210-211, cat. no. 19.
Illustrated in 'Iranian Textiles' by Jennifer Wearden and Patricia L Baker, V&A Publishing, 2010 fig. 5 page 17.
L. Lockhart, Nadir Shah: A Critical Study Based Mainly Upon Contemporary Sources, London: Luzac & Co., 1938, frontispiece.
Persian Royal Portraiture and the Qajars, Robinson, B.W., Qajar Iran, Mazda, California, 1983,1992
Persian Oil Paintings, Robinson, B.W., V & A Small Colour Book 20, 1977
p.148, cat. no. 154
Pearls / Beatriz Chadour-Sampson ; with Hubert Bari. London: V&A Publishing, 2013 Number: 1851777555, 9781851777556
Jenny Housego, "18th Century Persian Carpets: Continuity and Change", in Pinner and Denny (eds.), Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies 3/1 (1987) pp.40- 46: fig.1.
Ernest Tucker, Nadir Shah's Quest for Legitimacy in Post-Safavid Iran, Gainsville, Florida, 2006, frontispiece.


Oil colour; Paint; Canvas




Paintings; Royalty; Portraits; Jewellery


South & South East Asia Collection

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