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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

With the youthful figure of Shah Abbas II


The

inner hall must have been a magnificent room in its more flourishing days. It is now used as a storeroom for banners, furniture, swords, and spears, piled everywhere on the floor and against the walls. One cannot see very well what the lower portion of the walls is like, owing to the quantity of things amassed all round, and so covered with dust as not to invite removal or even touch; but there seems to be a frieze nine feet high with elaborate blue vases on which the artist called into life gold flowers and graceful leaves.

The large paintings are of considerable interest apart from their historical value. In the centre, facing the entrance door, we detect Nadir Shah, the Napoleon of Persia, the leader of 80,000 men through Khorassan, Sistan, Kandahar and Cabul. He is said to have crossed from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, and from there to Delhi, where his presence led to a scene of loot and carnage. But to him was certainly due the extension of the Persian boundary to the Indus towards the East and to the Oxus on the North. In the picture he is represented on horseback with a great following of elephants and turbaned figures.

To the right we have a fight, in which Shah Ismail, who became Shah of Persia in 1499, is the hero, and a crowd of Bokhara warriors and Afghans the secondary figures. Evidently the painting is to commemorate the great successes obtained by Ismail in Khorassan, Samarkand

and Tashkend.

The third is a more peaceful scene--a Bokhara dancing girl performing before Shah Tamasp, eldest of four sons of Ismail and successor to his throne. The Shah is represented entertaining the Indian Emperor Humaiyun in 1543. The lower portion of this picture is in good preservation, but the upper part has been patched up with hideous ornamentations of birds and flowers on red ground.

Over the door Shah Ismail, wearing a white turban, is represented riding a white horse and carrying a good supply of arrows. The Shah is in the act of killing a foe, and the painting probably represents one of his heroic deeds at the battle of Khoi against Salim.

To the right of the door there is a picture of dancing and feasting, with Shah Abbas offering drink in sign of friendship to Abdul Mohmek Khan Osbek.

Finally, to the left of the front door we have pictorially the most pleasing of the whole series, another scene of feasting, with the youthful figure of Shah Abbas II. (died 1668), a man of great pluck, but unfortunately given to drunkenness and licentious living, which developed brutal qualities in him. It was he who blinded many of his relations by placing red-hot irons in front of their eyes. Considering this too lenient a punishment he ordered their eyes to be extracted altogether. We see him now, sitting upon his knees, garbed in a red tunic and turban. In the foreground a most graceful dancing-girl, in red and green robes, with a peculiar waistband, and flying locks of hair. The artist has very faithfully depicted the voluptuous twist of her waist, much appreciated by Persians in dancing, and he has also managed to infuse considerable character into the musicians, the guitar man and the followers of the Shah to the left of the picture, as one looks at it, and the tambourine figure to the right. Fruit and other refreshments lie in profusion in vessels on the floor, elaborately painted. This picture is rectangular, and is probably not only the most artistic but the best preserved of the lot.


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