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The Artist and the Shah: Memoirs of Life at the Persian Court, by Dust-Ali Khan Mo`ayyer al-Mamalek

Published Date: December 12, 2021

In Stock


Available February 22, 2022
6.12in x 9.25in

About the Book

To the task of chronicling the waning years of Persia’s Qajar court, Dust-Ali Khan “Mo`ayyer al-Mamalek” (1876–1966) brought matchless gifts. On his mother’s side, he was the grandson of Naser al-Din Shah, ruler of Qajar Iran from 1848 to 1896; on his father’s side, he was the descendant of a family of assayers and masters of the royal mint with roots in the Safavid era (1501–1736). He was also a painter and writer with a keen eye for atmosphere and detail. Throughout his long life, he kept journals of the rarefied and sometimes turbulent world in which he moved. Some of those records were incorporated by him into autobiography or descriptions of his grandfather’s court—its modes of governance, festivals, royal hunts, palaces and gardens, life in the harem, and much more.


The Artist and the Shah is the product of a seven-year labor of love by Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar, a dedicated historian of the Qajar era, to not only translate two of Dust-Ali Khan’s memoirs but also to gather together 280 photographs from public archives and private collections. Most of the photographs are presented here for the first time in their proper context. Illuminated with the words of Dust-Ali Khan, they provide a uniquely intimate view of an era now long vanished.


Eskandari-Qajar has produced a delightful translation of the memoirs of a subtle observer of the late Qajar era. The copious notes and the excellent collection of photographs further enhance our understanding of court and high culture of a bygone era from the artistic vantage point of a member of the old nobility.  
—Abbas Amanat, Yale University, author of Iran: A Modern History


This book is as enlightening as it is beautiful.
—Houchang Chehabi, Boston University


Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar’s study is an extraordinary achievement. On the basis of less than a hundred and fifty pages of Persian text, written more than sixty years ago, he has created a work of meticulous, painstaking scholarship, whilst at the same time revealing in a highly readable and accessible way a remote, unfamiliar world with great sympathy and understanding.
—John Gurney, Wadham College, Oxford {read the full review}


Illustrations, xi

A note on translation and transliteration, xxvii

Translator’s Preface and Acknowledgments, xxviii

The Life and Times of Dust-Ali Khan “Mo`ayyer al-Mamalek,” 1

Eighty-Five Years of Life in a Few Pages, 47

Birth, Early Childhood and Youth, 47

Young Adulthood, the Cholera of 1310 and Life at Lar, 64

From the Preface to Notices on the Private Life of Naser al-Din Shah: 1892, 69

Death of Naser al-Din Shah; Arrival of Mozaffar al-Din Shah and Marriage, 78

La Belle Époque: Paris in 1900, 87

Return to Tehran and Halcyon Days, 119

The Coming Storms Over the Horizon, 134

All Things Must Come to an End, 146

Notices on the Private Life of Naser al-Din Shah, 161

The Reason for Writing This Book, 161

The Royal Andarun, 166

Royal Wives and Children, 170

On the Incomes of Wives and Children and on the Lives of Some of the Eunuchs of the Court, 178
On the Customs and Pastimes of the Members of the Harem, 182

The Private or Sleeping Quarters (Khabgah) and 

Sleeping Habits of the Shah, 196

On the Manner of Taking Meals in the Andarun and on some of the Evening Pastimes, 201

The Tale of the Abbas-Ali Plane Tree, 209

The Manner of Dress of the Wives of the Shah and the Fashion of the Day, 210
On Naser al-Din Shah’s Appearance, Habits and Qualities, 217

On the Shah’s Artistic Talents, 222

On Petitioning the Shah, 231

The Chess Players, 235

On the Shah’s Passion for Hunting and Shooting, 237

On Political Matters, 241

On the Shah’s Love for Jayran, 244

On the Buildings of Golestan Complex and the Edifices of the Qajar Era, 251
The Greater Narenjestan, 251

The Karim Khani Retreat, 253

The Badgir Pavilion, 255

The Gallery Pavilion, 256

The White Palace, 256

The Shams al-Emareh, 257

On the Zoological Gardens at the Golestan Palace, 263

On the Shah’s visits to the Royal Gardens and the Royal Summering Grounds, 265

Shahrestanak, 269

Descriptions of the Royal Gardens, 273

Bagh-e Shah, 273

Eshratabad, 275

Eyshabad, 276

Qasr-e Qajar, 276

The Garden of Dowshan Tapeh, 280

Saltanatabad, 283

Sahebqaraniyeh, 288

Sorkheh Hesar, 289

The Turquoise Palace, 291

The Celebration of Festivals, 292

Nowruz, 292

The Birthday of His Majesty, 315

The Eid of Adha, 317

Celebration of the Birth of Hazrat-e Fatemeh (A), 321

The Ta`zieh Ceremonies, 326

The Month of Fasting, 340

On Horse Races, 343

Audiences with Doctors and Poets, 354

Aashpazaan (Soup-making), 356

Hunting Excursions of the Shah, 361

Jajrud, 362

Masileh, 372

Qom, 374

Relations of the Shah with Members of His Court, 390

Babri Khan, 390

The Mother of the Shah, 391

Aziz al-Soltan, 395

The Shah and Children, 410

The Shah and Loyal Servants, 414

The Tobacco Boycott Affair, 420

The Tehran-Shah Abdolazim Railroad Incident, 422

The Assassination of Naser al-Din Shah and the Conclusion of this Story, 426

A Final Word, 435

Notes, 441

Notes to Translator’s Preface and Acknowledgments, 443

Notes to The Life and Times of Dust-Ali Khan “Mo`ayyer al-Mamalek”, 449

Notes to Eighty-Five Years of Life in a Few Pages, 459

Notes to Notices on the Private Life of Naser al-Din Shah, 501

Appendices, 577

Jahanbani Family Line, 579

Mo`ayyer al-Mamalek Family Line, 589

Selected photographs of the 

Mo`ayyer al-Mamalek Family, 595

Wives and Children of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, 607

Wives and Children of Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, 619

Wives and Children of Mohammad-Ali Shah Qajar, 625

Selected photographs of 

Mohammad-Ali Shah’s Family 629

Credits, 633

Bibliography, 635

Index, 643

About the Author

Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar received his Magister in International Relations and International Law from the University of Vienna in 1980 and his M.A and PhD in Political Theory from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1982 and 1984 respectively. He is Professor of Political Science and Founder/Director of the Middle East Studies Program at Santa Barbara City College. He is co-founder and past president of the International Qajar Studies Association (IQSA), a scholarly association dedicated to the study of the Qajar era. In 2009, he joined a team of scholars at Harvard University working on the NEH-funded Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran Harvard Project. In 2013, Eskandari-Qajar was selected California Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Mage published his translation of the Tarikh-e `Azodi, Life at the Court of the Early Qajar Shahs in 2014

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