Girl Smoking. Muhammad Qasim, Isfahan, 17th century. WikiCommons. Illustrated Girls by Girl Museum

Girl Smoking. Muhammad Qasim, Isfahan, 17th century. WikiCommons.

This illustration comes from the time of the Safavid Dynasty in Iran, a very productive period for Persian art. It is an example of a Persian miniature. Persian miniatures are small paintings on paper. They are found primarily in the books produced for the upper classes, as only the wealthy could afford to commission a work from one of the highly-respected artists. Miniature paintings were commonly used as illustrations for literary works. Muhammad Qasim, the artist, was a student of the great late Safavid Persian miniature artist Reza (or Riza) Abbasi.

During this period in Iran, smoking was very popular among different social classes and both genders, however women mostly smoked at home, while men smoked in public coffee houses. Wealthy individuals had qualans, or water pipes, made of decorated glass, silver, or gold.

The girl in this picture is almost topless, wearing only what appears to be some kind of robe that bears her chest. Yet there is no obvious sign of fully-formed breasts, suggesting that she is still in her youth. Her clothing and jewelry is highly patterned, indicative of her culture and perhaps her status as a middle or upper class girl. She reclines back on two pillows as she smokes, and the absence of any other figures may be an indication that she is at home.

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