Karim Khan Zand and his kinsmen,
by Muhammed Sadiq, Shiraz, c. 1779
The Qajar dynasty, which ruled Persia from 1794 to 1925, was not a direct continuation of the Safavid period. The invasion of the Ghilzai Afghan tribes with the occupation in 1722 of the Safavid capital Isfahan, and the eventual collapse of the Safavid Empire in the following decade plunged Iran into a period of political chaos. With the exception of the Zand interval (1750-79), the history of 18th century Iran was marred by tribal violence. This ended with the coronation of Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar in 1796, which ushered in a period of political stability that was characterised by a revival of cultural and artistic life.The Zand and Qajar periods saw a continuation of oil painting introduced in the 17th century, and the decoration of lacquer boxes and book-bindings. Illustrated historical manuscripts and single page portraits were also produced for a range of patrons, in a style consistent with that of Muhammad Ali (son of Muhammad Zaman) and his contemporaries. While the excessive use of shading sometimes endows these works with a dusky quality, they do display an improved understanding of the play of light (coming from a single source) on three-dimensional forms.
Portrait of Karim Khan Zand
The evolution of Persian art in the 18th and 19th centuries can be divided into distinct phases, beginning with the reign of Karim Khan Zand (1750-79), Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834) and Nasir ad-Din Shah(1848-96).
During the Zand period, Shiraz became not only the capital but also the centre of artistic excellence in Iran, and Karim Khan's building program in the city attempted to emulate Shah Abbas' Isfahan. Shiraz was endowed with fortifications, palaces, mosques and other civil amenities.