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Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, The Hand, c.1960-61
paper collage with ink, watercolor, gold and silver paint
27 1/2 x 18 1/4 inches (69.9 x 46.4 cm)
frame:  35 5/8 x 26 3/8 x 1 3/4 inches (90.5 x 67.0 x 4.4 cm)
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection
Gift of Abby Weed Grey, G1975.38

The Hand reflects Zenderoudi's interest in Islamic calligraphy and Shiite folklore. The single hand—a standard component of saqqakhaneh—reminds viewers of the bravery of Hazrat Abbas, who fought in the Battle of Karbala in 680 A.D. The well-known battle took place between the supporters of Umayyad caliph Yazid I and Hossein, Muhammad's grandson and the seventh imam. Abbas, the half-brother of Hossein, brought water from the Euphrates after his enemies had severed his hands. Literally meaning "water fountain" and referring to the ceremonial public structures holding water for passersby that were constructed in memory of the 7th-century Shiite martyrs, saqqakhaneh retrospectively became the moniker of an unofficial association of artists in Tehran. Their style was not an adaptation of Western modernisms; these artists adopted themes and motifs from the Iranian past to create a uniquely Iranian visual language in the late 1950s.1 The Hand is also notable for its depiction of a unity among the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Emblems—a hand, the baptismal bowl, and Star of David—represent the religions.2

1. Fereshteh Daftari, "Another Modernism: An Iranian Perspective," in Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution, ed. Lynn Gumpert and Shiva Balaghi (London: I.B. Tauris, 2002), 74.
2. Fereshteh Daftari introduced this idea in a paper presented at "Modern Iranian Visual Culture: A Symposium" on October 22, 2002, which was organized in conjunction with the exhibition "Between Word and Image: Modern Iranian Visual Culture," held at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, September 18–December 7, 2002.