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Portrait of a man seated, wearing a turban.

Against a background of a dark red velvet curtain, a man sits in three quarter profile, with his hands folded in front of him. Wearing a tall white turban, the man looks at us, with dark eyes, raising an eyebrow and smiling slightly under his bushy black beard. A dark fur collar that he wears draped around his shoulders hangs down over his chest and he wears a silk jacket with richly embroidered sleeves over a plain bright white tunic.

Gallery Text

Mirza Abu’l Hassan (1776–1845) was the ambassador of the shah of Persia to the court of King George III in London, sent in 1809 to help negotiate a treaty of alliance to counter growing French influence. Although he stayed in England for less than a year, he became a figure of fascination — the subject of portraits, popular prints, and even poetry. A contemporary noted that “the Persian ambassador is the principal thing talked of now.” His official host was Gore Ouseley, a diplomat and linguist who had lived and worked in India. Ouseley commissioned this portrait from Thomas Lawrence, one of the leading British portraitists of the day. Abu’l Hassan, who kept a journal during his time in London, reported that Lawrence painted the portrait in four sittings. Ouseley accompanied Abu’l Hassan on his return to Persia to finalize the treaty, bringing the painting with him.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Thomas Lawrence, English (Bristol, England 1769 - 1830 London, England)
Mirza Abu'l Hassan Khan
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2120, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Lure of the East
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
88.9 x 69.2 cm (35 x 27 1/4 in.)
frame: 117.2 x 97.2 x 10.2 cm (46 1/8 x 38 1/4 x 4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: verso, upper center of frame, round, serrated edges, red printed text: CHENUE / EMBALLEUR / 5, Rue de la Terrasse. PARIS.
  • label: verso, upper center of frame, round, serrated edges, red printed text, torn: [illegible graphite] / Terrasse, PARIS
  • label: verso of backing board, printed text: No.: 01 Date: 1810 / Title: Abu'l Hassan / Artist: Sir Thomas Lawrence / Lent by: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, / Bequest of William M. Chadbourne / From the exhibition: "SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE: Portriats of an Age, / 1790-1830 / Circulated by / Art Services International / 700 North Fairfax Stret, Suite 220 / Alexandria, Viriginia 22314 (703) 548-4554
  • label: verso, on backing board, printed text: Brooklyn Museum of Art / 200 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn NY 11238-6052 718/638-5000 / Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925 / Venues & Dates: / Brooklyn Museum of Art : October 23, 1998-January 24, 1999 / UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural / Center, Los Angeles: February 24 - May 9, 1999 / TL1998.160 / Sir Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769-1830) / Portrait of Persian Envoy Abul Hasan, 1810 / Oil on canvas / 35 1/4 x 27 1/4 inches (89.5 x 70.2 cm) / 1964.1 Harvard University Art Museums / Cat No. 49
  • inscription: verso, upper left of frame, white chalk: 124[?]6-1


Recorded Ownership History
Commissioned by Sir Gore Ouseley, 1810, bequest; to Sir Frederick A. Gore Ouseley (his son), 1844, bequest; to St. Michael's College, Tenbury, 1889, sold [through A. T. Barber and Co., Ltd., Windsor]; to [Vicar Bros., London, 1919], sold; to [Leggatt Bros., London, 1927], sold (?); to [Jacques Seligmann & Co., Paris]; to William Chadbourne, New York, 1927, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1964.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of William M. Chadbourne
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • E. E. Williams, The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Kt. (London, England, 1831), vol. II, pps. 55-56
  • [Catalogue from Worcester Exhibition], exh. cat. (Worcester, England, 1882), no. 34
  • Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Romney and Lawrence, Scribner and Welford (New York, NY, 1882), p. 118
  • Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, with a catalogue of the artist's exhibited and engraved works, compiled by Algernon Graves., Goupil, J. Boussod, Manzi, Joyant, and successors (London, England and New York, NY, 1900), p. 150
  • Sir Walter Armstrong, Lawrence (New York, NY, 1913), p. 138
  • Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Routledge and Paul (London, England, 1954), p. 50, pl. 65
  • Kenneth Garlick, A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings and Pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Glasgow University Press (Glasgow, Scotland, 1962 - 1964), p. 144
  • Charles W. Millard, "A Diplomatic Portrait: Lawrence's 'The Persian Ambassador' ", Apollo (February 1967), vol. LXXXV, pps. 115-122; repr. in color plate III, p. 116
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 18
  • Sir Denis Wright, The Persians Amongst the English: episodes in Anglo-Persian History, I. B. Tauris (London, England, 1985), see chapter 6, "Envoy Extraordinary"
  • M. M. Cloake, A Persian at the Court of King George, 1809-1810 (London, England, 1988), pps. 254, 275
  • Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, Phaidon Press (Oxford, England, 1989), no. 8, p. 133, repr. pl. 55
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 64, color plate; pp. 115, 146, repr. b/w cat. no. 37
  • Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portrait of an Age, 1790-1830, Art Services International (Alexandria, VA, 1993), no. 1, p. 20, repr. in color
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Layla S. Diba, ed., Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925, exh. cat., I. B. Taurus Publishers/Brooklyn Museum of Art (Brooklyn, NY, 1998), no. 49, pp,197-198, repr. in color
  • Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford and New York, NY, 2002), repr. p. 41 as fig. 22
  • "Colonial-Era Silver and Shawls from India on Display", Antiques and the Arts Weekly (August 26 2005), p. 28, repr. p. 28
  • Michael Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2005), pp. 152, 154, 316, repr. p. 153 pl. 86, detail repr. p. 316, pl. 171
  • Susan Jenkins and Steven Parissien, Compton Verney: The History of the House and Grounds at Compton Verney, Scala Publishers Ltd. (London, 2010), p. 91, mentioned under cat. no. 50
  • A. Cassandra Albinson, ed., Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art (New Haven/London, 2010), cat. 36, ill.

Exhibition History

  • The Worcester Exhibition, [Unknown venue, Worcester England], Worcester, 01/01/1882 - 12/31/1882
  • Unidentified Exhibition, Harvard Club of New York, 1965, Harvard Club of New York City, New York, 01/01/1965 - 01/31/1965
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967
  • English Portraits in New England Collections, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, 10/01/1972 - 10/29/1972
  • Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977
  • Sir Thomas Lawrence, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 02/27/1993 - 04/25/1993; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 05/15/1993 - 07/11/1993; Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Richmond, 07/31/1993 - 09/26/1993
  • Royal Persian paintings : the Qajar epoch, 1785-1925, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, 10/23/1998 - 01/24/1999; Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, 02/24/1999 - 05/09/1999; Brunei Gallery, London, 07/05/1999 - 09/26/1999
  • The Portrait, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/15/2004 - 01/09/2005
  • Silver and Shawls: India, Europe, and the Colonial Art Market, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/27/2005 - 01/29/2006
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, National Portrait Gallery, London, 10/21/2010 - 01/23/2011; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 02/24/2011 - 06/05/2011
  • Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 2120 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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