Lithography during the Qajar Era: A Case Study of One of the Most Prominent Works of Ali-quli Khui

The distinctive aesthetic characteristics of the art of the Qajar era have been examined in art history books and studies by Iranian and non-Iranian researchers. However, the art of the Qajar period also has traits that have not been studied so thoroughly. Since the art of each era reflects the culture and spirit of its time, it can be used as a gateway to the underlying layers of thoughts and desires of a nation that have given rise to these artistic expressions. Due to various reasons ranging from Iran’s societal order to barbarian lootings of the country, what is left of Iranian art since ancient times is only that which belongs to the courts. Even if artistic works were created for ordinary people, they were eventually destroyed by the hands of time.
During the Qajar era, however, it became possible for the Iranian artists to create art not only for the royalty but for ordinary people too. One of these popular art forms is lithography, which played a major role in raising the awareness of the masses. Due to the vast interaction of Iran with the West during the Qajar period, an innovative way of thinking emerged among Iranians. In the year 1813 when the Gulistan treaty was signed between Iran and Russia, a number of printing press machines were ordered from the Russians, and in 1817 the first publishing house was established in Tabriz. From then on, lead printing and then lithography became widespread in Iran. Iranians adapted this innovation to the Iranian conditions and created art forms that were in compliance with Iranian painting traditions. One of the artists of this era who was very active and left behind many works of art was Ali-Quli Khui.
This paper is divided into four sections: the first section will shortly attend to the life of Ali-Quli Khui; the second section will introduce the book, Ajaib al-Makhluqat; the third section will discuss the works of Ali-Quli khui in Ajaib al-Makhluqat; and the last section will compare and analyse Khui’s works with a number of other similar art works.