top of page

Portrait of a Physician: a Painting by Reza Abbasi, a Well-Known Painter of Isfahan school

Human relationships such as, wars, historical events and description of romantic relations has been the greatest source of inspiration for Iranian painters. These paintings have been only an appendix of literary text(1). However later paintings were technically so rich to express the whole story independently, but they still had no separated identity(1, 2). Reza Abbasi, the greatest artist in Isfahan school is a pioneer in giving an independent identity to painting and manifested it as an independent media.

Reza, the most dominant painter of Safavieh era, was born in around 973 H.L[1](1, 3).He joined Shah Abbas art studio in 996 H.L. In the latest decades of 990 H.L., he founded a new style which was more dynamic in form and movement and more expressive in meaning(1) .

Not only did Reza Abbasi demonstrate a significant technique in presenting clothes texture, character movements and personalities and apply different thicknesses for drawing lines, but he also extract painting from its decorating mode. In spite of his engagement in illustrating manuscripts, most of his works comprise portraits and single page images(1). Although most of his works were engraved, they were not all addressed to a certain person. However, the specification on the engravings might be removed during times and the identity of the person has been forgotten(3). Although in the first glance, these paintings look similar, it is obvious that they differ from each other. although, these paintings do not offer an independent individuality but they can be distinguished by the clothing, accessories or certain physical signs(3).

Figure No.1 is one of Reza Abbasi’s works, portrayed one year before his death. It had an engraving and the person who was the model, was identified. It is a water- color manuscript; the size is 83 x187 mm. and has been put on a patchwork with no name(4). This art piece according to seals behind it, belonged to Hossein Abi Mohammad Altabataba until 13th century but it is now kept in National Library of France(4).

This face belongs to a physician and poet lived in Safavian court and he had received an honor prize from Shah Abbas the first. According to literatures with it, his name is Sharaffedin Hassan Shafaei Isfahani, died in 1039 H.L(3-5). He was one of the intimate friends of Shah Abbas. Shafaei was an expert physician whose fee was hardly paid by the ordinary people(5). Certainly, his portrait had been finished after his death, because the date of 1043 H.L has been written on it(4).

Reza Abbasi left artistic workshop in court in order to draw the life of wrestlers, dervishes and other people with low social class. His works mainly consisted drawing and portraying of people. In the end, he returned to the court probably for his poor life. He was engaged in drawing and portraying during last years of his life and finally he died in 1044 H.L(1, 3).

1. Canby SR. Persian Painting. 1993. Thames and Hudson.

2. Shoja M, Tubbs R. The disorder of love in the Canon of Avicenna (AD 980–1037). American Journal of Psychiatry. 2007;164(2):228-9.

3. Canby SR. Rebellious Reformer: The Drawings and Paintings of Riza-Yi 'Abbasi of Isfahan. 1996. Tauris IB.

4. Richard F. Jelvehaye honare Parsi (Splendeurs Persanes).Translated to Persian by Roohbakhshan A. 1997. Bibliotheque nationale de France; BNF edition.

5. Elgood C. A Medical History of Persia and the Eastern Caliphate. 1932 270-80.

[1] Hegira Lunar

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page