Persia through an insider's lens
The Christian Science Monitor
December 14, 2000
By Susan Llewelyn Leach
The new shah was so enthused by the photographic technology coming out
of France in the 1840s that whenever he traveled, he carried a pile of
freshly shot portraits of himself to present to foreign dignitaries.
Nasir al-din Shah, the Persian ruler, quickly appointed a full-time
court photographer to document his movements and converted a palace building
into a photo studio.
One who flourished under the shah's latest hobby was a young Armenian
Christian named Antonin Sevruguin. The photographer went on to become one
of Iran's most artistic and prolific, taking both candid and courtly pictures
of the shah as well as striking shots of commoners, monuments, and scenery.
His position as insider and outsider gave him unique access to the many
layers of Iranian society.
These photos are from a new show at Harvard University's Arthur M. Sackler
Museum, "Antonin Sevruguin and the Persian Image" - first seen
at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
The shah's mustache dyeing exercise quirkily reflects some of the East-West
tensions of the time, as his servants stand ready to assist the European
The village girl's round face, tiny mouth, and arched brows is a study
in traditional Iranian ideal of beauty, the "moon face."
For more information try www.artmuseums.harvard.edu
or call (617) 495-9400.