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The Battle of Karbala - Pardeh Screen


varnished gouache on canvas

118 inches by 57 inches - 300 cm by 145 cm

The inscription on the painting reads:

Made by ('amala) Husayn Hamadani (i.e. from Hamadan in NW Iran) 1332.


1332 of the hijra dating system starts in November 1913 and runs to November 1914. This would place the painting at the end of the Qajar period.


Source - Dr. Marcus Milwright - University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Background: Pardeh painting is narrative and epic. Originating from popular Iranian painting, the art flourished during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran.The oldest were said to date from the beginning of the nineteenth century, rooted in the narrative traditions and Persian passion plays common in old Iranian coffeehouses. These religious paintings are a collection of images of the leaders and elders of the Shi'a sect and scenes from the battles of the prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali, the Karbala tragedy and other religious folk-tales. The paintings are traditionally described by a narrator known as naghal (“relater”) who sometimes performed outside the coffeehouses, moving to a public square or the entrance to the bazaar for a broader audience that included women and children. For these street performances the paintings were rendered on loose canvas, called a pardeh, or screen. A curtain would veil the image until the storyteller dramatically flipped it over the back to announce the beginning of his tale.


Condition: This painting has very likely been used in the Pardeh tradition for storytelling as there are still hitches sewn on the canvas for hanging. Repairs, stitches at the border, and small tears in the canvas show use. The colors are exceptionally balanced and show the influence of miniature Iranian art. A masterful composition of a classic story.

The painting has been found (or one extremely similar) in a photograph on the cover of a book by Penn State Professor Victor H. Mair: Painting and Performance: Picture Recitation and Its Indian Genesis (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988).

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