N° 57
Portrait of Louis XIV

Iran, Isfahan
c. 1650
Gouache on paper; Painted by Alî Quli Jabbedâr
H : 12.5 cm, L : 7.2 cm
Paris, National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet
(MA 2478)

This portrait of King Louis XIV in his youth, subtly transposed into a Persianising style, is probably inspired by one or several, European engravings; it derives, at least partially, from an engraving by P. Aubry, Louis XIV par la grâce de Dieu roi de France et de Navarre in the French National Library.

The figure of the sovereign, still youthful looking, dressed in armour and holding a marshal's baton, stands out against a large backcloth of green drapery. In the background lies a misty landscape in which can be seen an army, treated in miniature in an obvious concern for perspective.

The work, which bears the signature of the painter Alî Quli Jabbedâr, is a development of a repeatedly-attested aesthetic trend in 17th century Persian and Mogul Indian pictorial tradition - the faithful copying or imaginative adaptation of European works by Persian and Indian artists. The study and reproduction of such foreign works - most often engravings of religious subjects from the Flemish and German schools - nourished the artistic vocabulary of oriental artists who enthusiastically drew upon them, often adding novel, and occasionally unusual, variations.

Despite its vaguely Persianising handling, Alî Quli Jabbedâr's Portrait of Louis XIV is nevertheless distinguished from similar more rapidly-executed works as the artist in all likelihood - and despite his adoption of a Persian pseudonym - is thought to have been European, possibly English. Virtually nothing is known of the enigmatic Alî Quli Jabbedâr - who occasionally added the epithet farangi, "Frank" , i.e. European, to his signature - except that he arrived in Persia in the mid-17th century, converted to Islam, "entered the service of the sultans," and was active during the latter half of the century.

His European origins obviously shed light on his thematic repertory which mainly consists of copies of European engravings, nevertheless transposed by a shimmering, intense palette designed to cater to the aesthetic tastes of his Oriental clients.

Amina Okada