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Various Paintings of Nader Shah Afshar (r. 1736-1747)

Nader Shah, who was the effective ruler of Iran for nearly two decades between 1730 and 1747, is one of the most enigmatic figures in Islamic history. He succeeded the Safavid dynasty with his own Afsharid clan in 1736 and ruled as Shah for over a decade. The following paintings show the different ways that he was represented by his contemporaries.

Iranian paintings

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This depiction shows Nader Shah, with his four-sided crown, appointing his son Reza-Quli as his heir.

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This painting, with its emphasis on Nader Shah’s regnal attire, crown, and jewelry, places more emphasis on his status as an Iranian ruler than his role as a warrior (notice the sword sheathed and placed behind him). Again, notice the red four-sided crown (representing the rightly-guided caliphs of early Islam), which was modeled upon the Qizilbash taj of the Safavids, whom he replaced as ruler of Iran.

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This painting, which was commissioned following Nader Shah’s conquest of northern India, shows the Shah in the posture of a Mughal ruler seated upon the Peacock Throne. The halo is also significant and suggests that Nader Shah sought to portray his authority as stemming from a divine source. His embrace of the sword is particularly important because it underscores the centrality of his status as a conqueror to his self-representation.

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This painting shows Nader Shah and Shah Muhammad, the Mughal ruler, in negotiations. It is notable that they are shown as equals. Both are represented as having halos, signifying that they were both divinely-guided rulers.

Nader-Shah-defeats-Ashraf-the-Afghan

Nader Shah defeating the Afghans at Mehmandust (1729). This painting was commissioned following his conquest of Delhi in 1739, thus the halo which foreshadows his eventual rise to become Shah of Iran.

A Western European depiction (ca. 1750)

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Nader Shah as a bloody conqueror, with a tower of skulls in the background. A figure lies subdued below his horse and another, possibly “Tragedy” hovers overhead.

Modern representation

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This statue, built in the late 20th century by the Iranian government, is constructed above Nader’s mausoleum. It shows the Afsharid ruler as a glorious conqueror.


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