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Oil painting - Ladies Around a Samovar

Ladies Around a Samovar

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)
    Tehran (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1860-75 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jalayir, Isma'il (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lady Janet Clark

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case WW8, shelf EXP

From the 1850s, Iranian painters began to be trained along European lines at art schools, and many produced strikingly realistic official portraits based on photographs. Isma’il Jalayir taught at the main art school in Tehran, but he stands apart from his contemporaries. He developed a distinctive personal style, and he often depicted people excluded from direct political power, such as the Sufi saint Nur ‘Ali Shah, and this group of women from the harem of a member of the ruling dynasty. It may be that his aristocratic background allowed him greater freedom as an artist.

The emotionless, posed quality of the faces suggests that the women did not sit for him as a group but were photographed individually, and Isma’il then used the images to create a large composition. The women have gathered for a tea party in a pavilion in a wooded garden. The princess standing at the centre offers a glass goblet to another princess, also standing, while the veiled woman seated between them smokes a water pipe. The other women drink tea from a samovar and listen to the music of the tar – the instrument played by the woman on the right. Isma’il’s paintings are suffused with a dreamlike, melancholy air, which has transformed the tea party into an event filled with mystery.

Physical description

Ladies Round a Samovar, Iran (probably Tehran), 1860-75.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)
Tehran (probably, made)


1860-75 (made)


Jalayir, Isma'il (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Isma'il gharaz-i naqshi'st k'az ma manad
Isma'il, the purpose of [this] painting is that it shall remain [as a memorial] after us.


Height: 156.5 cm, Width: 213 cm

Descriptive line

Ladies Round a Samovar, Iran (probably Tehran), 1860-75.

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. 261-2, cat. no. 86.
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

Labels and date

Ladies Round a Samovar
Iran, probably Tehran

The members of a harem have gathered for a tea party in a pavilion in a wooded garden. The stillness of most of their faces suggests that the artist worked from photographs, inserting the women's likenesses into an imaginary scene. The artist was Isma'il Jalayir, whose paintings are suffused with a dream-like, melancholy air.

Oil on canvas. Signed by Isma'il Jalayir

Museum no. P.56-1941. Given by Lady Janet Clark [Jameel Gallery]

Production Note





Oil painting

Subjects depicted



Islam; Paintings


Middle East Section

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