عنوان مقاله [English]
The Qajar dynasty came to power in 1785 and ruled until 1925. During this last phase of traditional Persian history, succeeding shahs tried to change the isolationist stance of the country by expanding cultural and economic interchange with the West. The 19th century was marked by continual unrest, caused by tribal groups competing for power. Foreign encroachment also contributed to conflicts. By mid-century, Persia had again become a crossroads to the East, because European colonialism demanded short routes to the Orient for explorers, archeologists, soldiers, scholars, pilgrims, tourists, writers, painters and photographers. During the long reign of Naser al-Din Shah (1848-1896) the desire for reformist policies and the continuing need for new funds led to the awarding of licenses to foreign concessionaires from Russia, Great Britain, France, Italy and Austria. It was during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah’s father, Mohammad Shah (1834-1848) that the first cameras came to Iran through Russia and Britain. Photographers in Iran can be divided into three broad categories: first, those belonging to the European documentary and geographic tradition, who explored cultural and physical differences throughout the world; second, indigenous photographers, who experimented with the new technical discoveries for enjoyment, without a defined mission; and third, commercial photographers, who discovered that images could be sold. The earliest practitioners of photography in Persia were Europeans from France, Austria and Italy. They were instructors at Dar al-Fonun, the well-known Tehran polytechnic established by Naser al-Din Shah in 1850 to train officers, civil and military engineers, doctors and interpreters. Photography was introduced into the curriculum after 1870. The Frenchman, Jules Richard who taught French at Dar al-Fonun was probably the first among the foreigners to print images on paper treated with silver nitrate. Photography in Qajar Iran was first at the court’s service or for documenting official events, but it gradually adopted some artistic and popular approaches. This medium in that time would provide the artists who had become familiar with modern European techniques of painting with some fresh, useful tools to try realistic imagery. However, the impact of photography on Qajar painters was not restricted to oil painting or watercolor, but it exerted its sphere of influence in a wider domain, including lacquerwork, particularly pen boxes. Under the Qajar dynasty the best miniature painting is usually found not in the illustration of manuscripts, as in the earlier periods of the art, but in the decoration of objects in lacquered papier-mache. This art reached a high state of development under Fath Ali Shah, but the best works produced under Naser al-Din Shah in the middle years of the 19th century were perhaps even finer. During this century lacquerwares were one of the most important forms of decorative art produced in Iran. Their importance is reflected in the sheer quantity of items that were made, and in the dynamism with which the decoration of lacquerwares developed. Actually, early Qajar lacquerwares look very different from those in later times throughout the whole century, especially from the Nasseri period on. It can hardly be doubted that the lacquerwork of the early Qajar period was to a large extent a continuation of the traditions established in the late Safavid, Afshar and Zand periods. The repertory of 18th century lacquer decoration included figural, floral and flower-and-bird themes, illumination and calligraphy; however, this visual tradition inclined towards more realistic subject matters with an emphasis on portraiture, most specifically depicting the portraits of kings, princes, officials and dignitaries. The present article aims at studying the impact of photography on the visual evolution of the lacquerwork in Qajar art and it tries to answer the following questions: How did photography exert influence on the development of visual arts and portraiture in Qajar period? How can we evaluate such impact on lacquerwork, especially pen boxes? The results demonstrate that photography had a considerable effect on visual arts, especially portraiture, in that period, and such a movement can be traced in other art media such as lacquer pen boxes, mirror cases, etc. Artists and artisans active in making pen boxes and other lacquer artifacts would use photographs in two ways on their artworks: first, by precise copying of portraits and other elements in pictures, and second, by just pasting the ready photos as labels under lacquer. Pen boxes with Qajar portraits usually contain the realistic paintings of rulers, courtiers, statesmen, the nobility and women within an oval frame in a Westernized structure. Such portraits are mostly depicted in the central panel in larger dimension than other adjacent ones. The dignitaries painted in here are officially dressed and are represented in vertical visual composition. This gradual development in the visual tradition of this era could be considered as a result of the introduction of photography into Qajar Iran, particularly from the middle 19th century onward, and it continues right into the end of this dynasty, with a decline in quality.