An Iranian Youth in an Album from Zwolle


  • Jan de Hond
  • Amélie Couvrat-Desvergnes
  • Leila Sauvage
  • Forough Sajadi
  • Paolo D'Imporzano



In the family scrapbook compiled by Gesina ter Borch (1633-1690), there is a remarkable drawing of an Iranian youth. Art-historical and scientific research has revealed that although the drawing has areas of later overpainting, there is an original Safavid miniature from the sixteen-fifties or sixties underneath them. It is likely that Gesina herself was responsible for these overpaints, when she mounted the badly damaged miniature in her album at some time between 1660 and 1680. Interestingly, aside from the blackened background and the colourful feather and sashes she added, she attempted to follow the original Iranian style in her restorations. The original was made in the sixteen-fifties or sixties by a painter of the Isfahan School, who probably took his inspiration from an older composition by the famous court artist, Riza Abbasi. The article goes on to show that Riza Abbasi’s work was known in the Dutch Republic before then. In 1623 the junior merchant Niclaes Hem travelled to Iran. He was a member of a Dutch East India Company delegation seeking to negotiate a trade agreement with the Shah. Hem acquired a series of drawings by or after Riza Abbasi while he was in Isfahan. He was probably helped in this acquisition by his fellow countryman, Jan van Hasselt. A number of the original miniatures that Hem took back to the Republic were published as woodcuts in Johannes de Laet’s Persia (1634).


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Author Biographies

Jan de Hond

Jan de Hond is a curator of history at the Rijksmuseum.

Amélie Couvrat-Desvergnes

Amélie Couvrat-Desvergnes is an independent paper and book conservator. She worked at the Rijksmuseum paper conservation laboratory from 2017 to 2019. She specializes in Islamicate manuscripts and paintings and has conducted several research projects in the field.

Leila Sauvage

Leila Sauvage graduated from the Sorbonne conservation programme, and is a paper conservator and conservation scientist at the Rijksmuseum.

Forough Sajadi

Forough Sajadi is a guest researcher at the Rijksmuseum. Her field of interest is Persian painting of the Safavid period.

Paolo D'Imporzano

Paolo D’Imporzano obtained a master’s degree in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Pisa, and is now a PhD student at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam studying lead isotopes in lead white in paintings in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum.




How to Cite

de Hond, Jan, Amélie Couvrat-Desvergnes, Leila Sauvage, Forough Sajadi, and Paolo D’Imporzano. 2020. “An Iranian Youth in an Album from Zwolle”. The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 68 (3):205-31.