- Eleanor Sims
Persian painter. He was one of a small group of artists working in Iran in the second half of the 17th century who painted in an eclectic manner that drew on European images and Mughal Indian styles (see Islamic art, §III, 4(vi)(a)). He appears to have been the earliest of this group, which included Muhammad Zaman and ‛Aliquli Jabbadar, to integrate these ‘exotic’ elements into his work. He invariably inscribed his work with the punning Persian phrase Bahā girift chū gardīd Shaykh ‛Abbāsī (‘It [He] acquired worth when he became Shaykh ‛Abbasi’). The honorific it contains (‛Abbasi; also a type of coin, whence the pun) suggests that he was in the service of Shah ‛Abbas II (reg 1642–66). He also signed paintings during the reign of Shah Sulayman (reg 1666–94).
Shaykh ‛Abbasi illustrated manuscripts and painted miniatures on single leaves of paper and, almost certainly, on lacquered papier-mâché objects, such as penboxes and mirror cases. More than 15 of his known paintings are signed, 8 in one manuscript (Baltimore, MD, Walters A. Mus., MS. W.668), and 25 can be attributed to him. His subjects include portraits of Safavid and Mughal rulers and of the Virgin and Child copied from European prints. His style is unmistakable, combining sure draughtsmanship with pale, transparent colour washes. Unlike Muhammad Zaman, he had a minimal interest in illusionism, restricting himself to darkening the edges of trees and buildings along one side (usually the right). His figures, especially heads and faces, are Indian in appearance as well as in the stippled manner in which they are drawn. His later pictures seem more Indian than his earlier work; Zebrowski proposed a connection with Golconda painting (...