The Central Asiatic origin of the Seljuks is aptly illustrated in this stucco relief, which must have formed part of a larger composition decorating a palace. The official’s round face, long eyes, and small mouth demonstrate an eastern facial type foreign to the Indo-European Iranians but adopted by them as the ideal of beauty into the nineteenth century.

The figure wears the winged crown of ancient Sasanian Iran, an invader’s conscious identification with the history of the conquered foe. The boots and stiff caftan, however, betray his nomadic beginnings.
Artist Islamic, Iranian
  • Figure of a Courtier from a Palace Frieze
Date between 1150 and 1250
Medium Painted stucco
Dimensions Overall: 40 inches (101.6 cm)
Credit Line City of Detroit Purchase
Accession Number 25.64
Department Islamic Art
On View Islamic N120, Level 1 (see map)
Inscriptions Inscribed, on upper arm bands, in Kufic: [translated: the faithful]
H. Kevorkian;
1925-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Bulletin of the DIA 11, no. 3 (1929): pp. 41-42, (ill. p. 41).

Masterpieces of Art in Memory of W.R. Valentiner. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, April 6-May 17, 1951, suppl. 13.

Riefstahl, Rudolf M. "Persian Islamic Stucco Sculptures," The Art Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 5 (1931): p. 462, (ill.).

Henshaw, Julia P., ed. A Visitors Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 121 (ill.).