February 16, 2011
Positive Portrayals of Sex in Art: Muhammad Qasim's "Shah Abbas"
Today's post is not one that I have any strong feelings about as a work of art, but I am posting it simply because I am so shocked that it was made at all. This is an image, painted in 1627, of a former Shah of Iran with the title (descriptive title?) "Shah Abbas I and his page." It's shocking for me to see such a tender, informal portrayal from that region of what appears to be a homosexually suggestive scene. Considering also that it is a depiction of the historical ruler of the country is beyond my comprehension. I am not a scholar of Middle Eastern history in any sense, but this image certainly stands in stark contrast to what I would have guessed the former Shah of Iran would have thought about homosexual behavior.
This work resides in the Louvre and an excerpt from their website in regards to this image reads, "European travellers [sic] remarked on the shah's taste for wine and festivities, and also noted his penchant for charming pages and cup bearers. If he were not wearing a turban, the curly hair and ambiguous beauty of the young man here might suggest a woman. The crystal flask holds the wine which the youth has poured into the king's cup from a flask of gold."
Additionally, there is a poem written on this piece that reads, "May life bring you all you desire of three lips: the lip of your lover, the lip of the stream, and the lip of the cup."
The rest of the description can be found here.