ḴOʾI, MIRZĀ ʿALIQOLI (b. Ḵoy, ca. 1230/1815; d. Tehran, ca. 1272/1856), the most prolific illustrator of Persian lithographed books in the Qajar period.  ʿAliqoli most likely received his education in Tabriz, where lithography was introduced around 1829. He may have been around 30 years of age in 1264/1847, when he published an edition of the Ḵamsa‑ye Neẓāmi (Figure 1), proving him to be the supreme master of his day in lithographic illustration (Robinson; Marzolph, 1997; Idem, 2001, pp. 31-34).

Soon after the beginning of Nāṣer-al‑din Shah’s reign (r. 1848-96), ʿAliqoli apparently followed the court to Tehran.  In the 1267/1850 edition of Qānun-e neẓām, a book used for teaching military drill at the Dār al‑Fonun, he signed as farrāš-e qebla-ye ʿālam (chamberlain to the Pivot of the Universe, i.e., the king); in the 1268/1851 edition of Saʿdi’s Kolliyāt, he introduced himself as banda‑ye dargāh (servant to the court); and in the 1270-74/1853-57 edition of Mirḵvānd’s Rawżat al‑ṣafāʾ as well as the military manual Mašq-e tup (1271/1854), he stated that he was ḵādem‑e madrasa-ye Dār al‑fonun (servant [i.e., teacher] at Dār al-Fonun); in Rawżat al‑ṣafāʾ he also presented himself as painter (naqqāš).  ʿAliqoli’s latest signed works, Alf layla wa layla and Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ fi maqātel al-šohadāʾ, are dated 1272/1855.  The only additional information available about him so far is the fact that a son of his continued to practice the profession of an artist: an illustration in the 1286/1869 edition of the Mātamkada by Qorbān b. Ramażān Bidel contains the signature of a certain Mirzā Esmāʿil b. Mirzā ʿAliqoli Ḵoʾi (ʿAnāṣeri).

Some 35 books have been identified as containing ʿAliqoli’s signed artwork. The genres they cover comprise, above all, popular narratives, classical literature, and narrative works of a Shiʿi religious nature.  Of both the Ḵamsa‑ye Neẓāmi and the Kolliyāt-e Sāʿdi he illustrated three different editions.  Of Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ, composed by Mirzā Ebrāhim b. Moḥammad-Bāqer Jawhari (d. 1253/1837), he illustrated more than ten editions, including four whose text was printed from movable type (Buḏari, 2011).

In chronological order, ʿAliqoli’s signed and dated artwork comprises the illustrations to the following books: 1263/1846: Baḵtiār‑nāma, Nušāfarin Gawhartāj; 1264/1847: ʿAjāʾeb al‑maḵluqāt (Kāzeruni, 2004; Torābi, 2014), Ḵamsa‑ye Neẓāmi (Robinson), Ḵosrow-e divzād; 1265/1848: Majāles al-mottaqin, Moṣibat-nāma, Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ (Tanāvoli, pp. 59, 74-89); 1267/1850: Qānun-e neẓām, Šāh-nāma-ye Ferdawsi (Ṣafi-nežād, 1995; Marzolph, 2003; Idem, 2011); 1268/1851: Asrār al‑šahāda, Čehel ṭuṭi, Jang‑nāma-ye Moḥammad Ḥanafiya, Kolliyāt-e Sāʿdi (two editions, the second one finalized posthumously in 1291/1874); 1269/1852: Divān-e Ḥāfeẓ, Ḥamla‑ye Ḥaydariya, Kolliyāt-e Sāʿdi, Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ; 1270/1853: Golestān‑e Eram, Ḵamsa‑ye Neẓāmi (two editions), Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ (finalized in 1274/1857), Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ; 1271/1854: Mašq-e tup, Ṭāqdis, Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ (two eds., one of them together with Mirzā Hādi); 1272/1855: Alf layla wa layla (together with Mirzā Ḥasan and Mirzā Reżā Tabrizi; Ṣafi-nežād, 2004), Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ (three eds.).

In addition to several undated items bearing his signature, the illustrations of more than 20 books may be attributed to ʿAliqoli by way of stylistic features, such as, most prominently, the 1267/1850 edition of the Aḵbār-nāma of Ṣādeq, pen name Dorri.  Altogether, he produced more than 2,000 illustrations, varying in size from stamp format up to a full folio page.  He also prepared a large number of intricate illuminations on chapter headings and final pages, including the headings for the early years of the Ruznāma-ye waqāyeʿ-e ettefāqiya, plus more than a thousand miniature decorative and ornamental drawings on the margins of the Ḵamsa-ye Neżāmi (1264/1847), the Kolliyāt of Saʿdi (1268-69/1851-52), and the Divān-e Ḥāfeẓ (1269/1852). 

ʿAliqoli executed his signature in a large variety of formats, almost never duplicating a format he had used previously.  The specific execution of these signatures demonstrates the artist’s growing self-consciousness as they develop from a somewhat diffident manner in his early works into prominently placed artful compositions in his later ones. 

ʿAliqoli must have profited from a solid traditional education in the graphic arts, since already his earliest work displays a delicate and refined style.  Moḥammad-ʿAli Karimzāda (1991, p. 397) regards the artist’s work as unadorned but appealing (referring to him as sāda-kār, ḵoš‑dast), and Basil Robinson has adequately praised him as the “pioneer among artists who devoted their talents to the printed book” in the early Qajar period.  Robinson characterized the artist’s style in the 1264/1847 edition of Ḵamsa as stiff and naïve, yet at the same time effective and sometimes striking.  For books like the Ḵamsa, the Šāh-nāma, or ʿAjāʾeb al‑maḵluqāt, it appears likely that he followed earlier models from manuscript illustration that probably were available to him in the royal library.  Many other books, particularly those compiled by contemporary authors, were illustrated by him for the first time ever.  A working sheet for two illustrations published in Ṭufān al‑bokāʾ reveals aspects of ʿAliqoli’s method of designing and copying (Karimzāda, 2002; Buḏari, 2009).  In the long run, ʿAliqoli’s work was highly influential, as most of the later artists who illustrated lithographed books in the Qajar period more or less copied his work.

Stylistic analysis of ʿAliqoli’s production shows that he was well versed in the iconographical vocabulary of classical Persian painting.  Moreover, it reveals individual characteristics of his work that allow its identification even when it is not signed.  ʿAliqoli exercised great care in the highly stylized minute representation of human expression, both faces and gestures.  Beautiful persons are always portrayed in three-quarters profile so as to stress the beauty of the evenly rounded face, whereas unattractive-looking persons, particularly old women, are stereotypically portrayed in full profile.  The mathematical precision evident in ʿAliqoliʼs drawings of perfectly oval heads and faces allows a clear identification against the style of other contemporary artists, such as the round shapes practiced by Ostād Sattār or the somewhat ill-proportioned shapes drawn by Mirzā Ḥasan.  ʿAliqoli devotes particular attention to the hair and beard, which are often done in single parallel lines.  While the faces of persons are traditionally rendered in a stereotypical manner, emotion is expressed by auxiliary means such as gestures, particularly the gesture of bewilderment and confusion known as angošt-e taḥayyor (amazement finger), in which the index finger of the right hand is held against the lips. In order to express agony as well as imminent or actual death, he depicts details of exposed teeth and stuck out tongues.  To avoid leaving blank space in the background of illustrations, the renderings of landscapes are typically filled with silhouettes of tiny birds in flight. Besides, he also shows a preference for a particular kind of meandering ornamental lines in decoration. A comprehensive assessment of the ʿAliqoli’s work by Ulrich Marzolph and Roxana Zenhari will be forthcoming.


Yaʿqub Āžand, Mirzā ʿAliqoli Ḵoʾi, Tehran, 2012. 

Jāber ʿAnāṣeri, “Moʿarrefi‑e kotob‑e čāp‑e sangi 32,” Ṣanʿat‑e čāp 152, 1995, pp. 66-67. ʿAli Buḏari, “Pišṭarḥ wa moṯannā bardāri-e siāh-qalamkār-e ʿaṣr-e Qājār: Aṯar-i az Mirzā ʿAliqoli Ḵoʾi dar majmuʿa-ye Karimzāda Tabrizi,” Nāma-ye Bahārestān 15, 2009, pp. 343-48. 

Idem, Čehel ṭufān: Barresi-e taṣāwir-e čāp-e sangi-e Ṭufān al-bokāʾ fi maqātel al-shohadāʾ, Tehran, 2011. 

Moḥammad-ʿAli Karimzāda Tabrizi, Aḥwāl wa āṯār‑e naqqāšān‑e qadim‑e Irān wa barḵi az mašāhir-e negārgar-e Hend wa ʿOṯmāni I, London, 1991, no. 683. 

Idem, Yādvāra-ye šahr-e Ḵoy, London, 2002. 

Jahāngir Kāzeruni, “Naqqāši-e čāp-e sangi dar Irān wa moʿarrefi-e ketāb-e ʿAjāʾeb al-maḵluqāt-e Qazvini Ḵoʾi,” in Gozāreš: Našriya-ye dāḵeli-e Anjoman-e honarmandān-e naqqāš-e Irān, 2004, pp. 13-19. 

Ulrich Marzolph, “Mirzā ʿAli‑Qoli Xuʾi: Master of Lithograph Illustration,” Annali (Istituto Orientale di Napoli) 57/1-2, 1997, pp. 183-202, plates I-XV. 

Idem, Narrative Illustrations in Persian Lithographed Books, Leiden, 2001; tr. Šahruz Mohājer, as Taṣwir-sāzi-e dāstāni dar ketābhā-ye čāp-e sangi, Tehran, 2011. 

Idem, “Illustrated Persian Lithographic Editions of the Shâhnâme.” Edebiyât 13/2, 2003, pp. 177-98. 

Ulrich Marzolph and Moḥammad-Hādi Moḥammadi, Ālbom-e Šāh-nāma: Taṣwirhā-ye čāp-e sangi-e Šāh-nāma-ye Ferdowsi/Shahnameh’s Album: A Compedium of Lithographic Illustrations to Ferdousi’s Shahnameh, Tehran, 2005; 2nd ed., 2011. 

Basil W. Robinson, “The Teheran Nizami of 1848 and Other Qajar Lithographed Books,” in idem, Studies in Persian Art, London, 1993, I, pp. 328-41. 

Ṣādeq, Aḵbār-nāma, ed. Ulrich Marzolph and Pegāh Ḵadiš, Tehran, 2010. 

Jawād Ṣafi-nežād, “Hazār o yak šab wa čāp-e sangi,” Farhang o mardom 3/11-12, 2004, pp. 17-28. 

Idem, “Šāh-nāmahā-ye čāp-e sangi,” Mirāṯ-e farhangi 14, 1995, pp. 24-30. 

Parviz Tanāvoli, Moqaddamaʾi bar tāriḵ-e gerāfik dar Irān, Tehran, 2015. 

Orkida Torābi, ʿAjāʾeb al-maḵluqāt-e Qazvini dar taṣāwir-e čāp-e sangi-e ʿAliqoli Ḵoʾi, Tehran, 2014.

(Ulrich Marzolph)

Originally Published: June 29, 2015

Last Updated: June 29, 2015

Cite this entry:

Ulrich Marzolph, "ḴOʾI, MIRZĀ ʿALIQOLI," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/khoi-mirza-aliqoli (accessed on 29 June 2015).