With wretched pencil to debase
Heaven’s favourite work, the human face,
To magnify and hold to shame
Each little blemish of our frame.
- The Marquess Townshend, 1773
Not since Tom Hachtman’s “DoubleTakes,” published in 1984, has there been a motley collection of caricatures of notable public figures – world leaders, celebrity personalities, all-star athletes, renowned artists – so thoroughly captivating and compelling.
And never before, perhaps, have such exaggerated cartoon characters been as strikingly beautiful and evocative as those drawn by Tehran-born, Vienna-based artist Mohammad Ali Ziaei.
A student of Vienna’s Industrial Design University of Applied Arts between 2002 and 2007, the now 31-year-old Ziaei has deftly trained his pen on a diverse array of subjects. From Gandhi to Amy Winehouse, Russian mystic Rasputin to South Korean pop sensation Psy, Benazir Bhutto to Donald Trump, the drawings Ziaei crafts demonstrate precisely why the term “caricature” is derived from the Italian and French terms for a “loaded portrait.”
In The Economy of Character, University of Toronto professor Deidre Lynch explains that, according to eighteenth-century British commentary on this imported Roman style of what is essentially narrative or editorialized portraiture, “caricature couples the act of willfully carrying character drawing to excess – of swelling figures and being prodigal in one’s handling of the signs of humanity – with the tendering of a truth claim, the claim that the drawing improves on extant modes of imitating nature and conveys truths about the person more truly.”
This, indeed, is what Ziaei often achieves in his work. As caricatures are all effectively political cartoons (usually revealing the political persuasion of the artist far more than the subject), it is unsurprising that Ziaei’s drawings have been featured on the International Political Forum website. One glimpse at Ziaei’s drawings of Bashar al-Assad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes clear where he stands.
Most impressive though are his caricatures of iconic Iranian political players old and new (from the Qajar dynasty to President Hassan Rouhani), along with his renderings of some of Iran’s most heralded poets, artists, writers, and musicians (including Sadegh Hedayat, Mohsen Namjoo, Ahmad Shamloo, and – my namesake – Nima Youshij).
Below are some of Ziaei’s portraits, but be sure to visit his full collection here.
All credit – besides that given to Ziaei himself for his immense talent – goes to ReOrient Magazine and S&F Joon for getting there first and putting this on my radar.
Sadegh Hedayat, writer (1903-1951)
Ahmad Shamloo, poet, writer, and journalist (1925-2000)
Hayedeh, Persian classical singer and pop vocalist (1942-1990)
Mohsen Namjoo, singer-songwriter (b. 1976)
Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, Persian classical singer and composer (b. 1940)
Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925): Mohammad Shah Qajar, Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar, Mohammad Khan Qajar, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar, Ahmad Shah Qajar (l-r).
Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967)
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980)
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (b. 1934)
Mir-Hossein Mousavi (b. 1942)
Hassan Rouhani (b. 1948)
And this one, just because I can’t resist:
And, from the grotesque to the sublime, my personal favorite:
Nima Youshij, the father of modern Persian poetry (1896-1960)
Originally posted at Muftah.