[Ashraf; ‛Alī Ashraf]
Persian painter. Known for a large number of painted and varnished (‘lacquered’) bookbindings, penboxes and mirror-cases (see Islamic art, §viii, 10), ‛Ali Ashraf worked in a small floral style with a characteristic motif of pansies or African violets on a black ground. His style, notable for its richness and delicacy, is derived directly from that of his teacher Muhammad Zaman but is standardized and simplified. His debt to his teacher can be seen in his signature, az ba‛d-i mu ḥammad ‛alī ashraf ast, which can be read as either ‘‛Ali [the Prophet’s son-in-law] is the noblest after Muhammad [the Prophet]’ or ‘‛Ali Ashraf is a follower of Muhammad [Zaman]’. This is the way he signed four mirror-cases with fine bird-and-flower designs (1740–1, Edinburgh, Royal Mus. Scotlandr, 1921–43; 1747, London, V&A, 758–1876; 1751–2, New York, Brooklyn Mus., 88.92; and 1755–6, London, J. Pope-Hennessy priv. col.) and a similar but undated penbox (Berne, Hist. Mus., 21–...