Ladies Around a Samovar thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Ladies Around a Samovar

Oil Painting
1860-75 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Ladies Round a Samovar, Iran (probably Tehran), 1860-75.
Physical Description
Ladies Round a Samovar, Iran (probably Tehran), 1860-75.
Dimensions
  • Height: 156.5cm
  • Width: 213cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
Isma'il gharaz-i naqshi'st k'az ma manad
Gallery Label
  • Jameel Gallery Ladies Round a Samovar (above case) Iran, probably Tehran 1860–75 This is probably the harem of Nasir al-Din Shah, who ruled Iran between 1848 and 1896. The women have gathered for a tea party in a pavilion overlooking a wooded garden. The artist is unlikely to have seen the harem himself. The stillness of the faces suggests that he worked from photographs, inserting the women’s likenesses into the palatial setting. Oil on canvas. Signed by Isma’il Jalayir Museum no. P.56-1941 Given by Lady Janet Clark (2015)
  • Jameel Gallery Ladies Round a Samovar Iran, probably Tehran 1860-1875 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(2006-2014)
Credit line
Given by Lady Janet Clark
Production
signed
Subject depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • Diba, Layla S. (Ed.) Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925 London, 1998pp.261-2, Cat.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
Collection
Accession Number
P.56-1941

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record createdJune 30, 2003
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