Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures | 06 December 2017

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Lot no.


Miniature painting signed ‘Imami’ evidently Haj' Mirza Aqa Imami

Sold for £1200

Est: £1500–2000

Miniature painting signed ‘Imami’ evidently Haj' Mirza Aqa Imami, depicting agricultural scenes around a nomadic tribe , on ivory panel [Isfahan or possibly Tehran, c. 1900]

Single free-standing ivory panel, ink and gouache, scene including maidens milking sheep, chopping firewood, separating cereal crops, carrying fruit to the tents, feeding a mule in the foreground, and further in background cows ploughing a field, a shepherd attending to his sheep/goats, birds perching on the tree to the far right and an archer hunting deer in the top right-hand corner, buildings and settlements in the distance where more villagers walk alongside camels, image framed within royal blue banner decorated with gold spiralling vines, all heightened in gold, pencil inscription to verso, else blank, a few miniature spots (two in skyline), very small chip to paint on roof of second tent and a few chips to varnish elsewhere (hardly noticeable to the naked eye), small chip to edge of ivory panel with slight loss to blue border on lower left-hand corner, 99 by 94 mm.

Provenance: Acquired as a collection of miniatures on ivory directly from the Imami workshop in Isfahan in the 1950s, by a friend of the Imami family, and thence by descent to the present owner.

Artist: This miniature must be the work of Haj' Mirza Aqa Imami, the Iranian master-artist and miniature painter who was responsible for the revival of the Safavid style of miniature drawing that has now become immensely popular in Iran. He was born in Isfahan in 1880 and travelled to Tehran to learn the art of illumination from Sani' Homayun, before returning to Isfahan to set up his own school and workshop. Notable students from this school include Hussayn Khata'i and Mahmoud Farshchiyan, in whose honour the Iranian Cultural Heritage Foundation’s established the ‘Museum of Master Mahmoud Farshcian’ in Tehran in 2001. See Mohammad Ali Karimzadeh Tabrizi, The Lives and Art of Old Painters of Iran, III, 1991, pp. 1269-71.

Most known examples of Imami's work bear his full signature “Mirza Aqa Imami”. However, the signature on this panel simply reads “Imami”. One plausible explanation may be that this miniature was executed early in Imami's career, before he was fully established as an independent artist. Although the style and execution of this miniature are completely in accord with his later works, the simplistic backdrop and soft palette are notably simpler and more restrained.

Only a handful of other examples of his work have appeared on the open market, and only one of those on ivory: Christie's 21 October 2016, lot 263; Bonhams 21 April 2015, lot 108, 7 October 2014, lot 181 and 2 April 2009, lot 21 (the only other recorded example on ivory). In addition, last year, Christie's (21 April 2016) sold a pair of Qajar painted and gesso applied wooden doors adorned with hand-painted lacquered miniatures that were attributed to the Imami workshop.

Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures

Wednesday 06 December 2017, 2.00pm

Bloomsbury London
Bloomsbury House
24 Maddox Street


Saturday 2 December
11am - 4pm
Sunday 3 December
11am - 4pm
Monday 4 December
9.30am - 5.30pm
Tuesday 5 December
9.30am - 5.30pm
Day of Sale from 9.30am

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