Mirzā 'Ali-Qoli Kho'i

A comprehensive assessment of the production of the most renowned artist of lithographic illustration in Persian Books of the Qajar period (nineteenth c.)

Research Collaborator Dr. Roxana Zenhari

The art of printing was introduced to Iran only at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Due to various cultural specifics, and particularly due to a pronounced esthetic sentiment, printing from movable type at first gained little acceptance. While printing from movable type had been introduced to Iran in 1233/1817, it was abandoned some forty years later and only was to make a lasting appearance considerably later. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Persian books since 1245/1829 were printed by way of lithography, a technique that had been invented by Alois Senefelder a few decades before. This technique was preferred to printing from movable type, since it guaranteed a smooth continuation of the traditional practice of manuscript production, both as for the characteristics and layout of the text as well as for the easy integration of illumination and (black and white) illustrations. The illustrations contained in the Persian books of the Qajar era are the topic of the present research project.

The research project focusses on the complete production of the main artist of Persian illustrated lithographed books of the nineteenth century, Mirzâ 'Ali-Qoli Kho'i. This artist was active between 1846 and 1855, and his output of more than 2000 illustrations had a lasting influence on later artists. The project primarily aims at an analytical assessment of the artist's complete production. Relying on this assessment, the project is to suggest a set of iconographical criteria of this artist's production, aiming to supply basic criteria for a more comprehensive understanding of Islamic iconography.

The research project was funded by the Thyssen Foundation. The resulting publication, Mirzā 'Ali-Qoli Kho'i: The Master Illustrator of Persian Lithographed Books in the Qajar Period, is to appear in the Brill series Islamic Manuscripts and Books in March 2022.