“The Painter in Two Frames”: An Archaeological Investigation of Kamal-ol Molk’s Agency in the Field of Art and Politics
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- Dezhamkhooy, M. & Massoudi, A. Int J Histor Archaeol (2014) 18: 591. doi:10.1007/s10761-014-0271-4
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An agent’s actions in different fields and its changes can leave material traces. Therefore, archaeology in its broadest methodological meaning surveys material culture and seeks to investigate an agent’s action in a process. Our archaeological excavation in Neshat Garden led to the discovery of material traces of lifestyle changes of a well-known agent from the late Qajar/early Pahlavi era. Mohammad-e Qafari, nicknamed Kamal-ol Molk, was a famous painter of the Qajar court. He left the court in middle age and entered politics as an agent of opposition. Kamal’s journey to Europe was a turning point that extended to the end of his life. At the same time, Iran’s sociopolitical context experienced significant evolution, including the Mashroute Movement and the rise of Pahlavi dynasty to power. Such mutations made Kamal-ol Molk abandon/change his activities in the field of art, sponsored by the power structure, to engage in political activity. His exile/compulsory migration to a faraway village in northeastern Iran is the outcome of his political activities. The present research is based on archaeological surveys and excavations in two sites: Kamal-ol Molk’s house and Neshat Garden. The archaeological investigation of Kamal’s life in context, his paintings, letters, and photos as a long-term process reveals an artist who was also political. His agency in politics was so effective that in order for the “holy honorable party” to survive, he sometimes ordered assassinations.