This work and G1975.40 derive from a pardeh, or printed fabric panel, showing individual episodes that led to the martyrdom of the imam Hossein at Karbala in 680 A.D. Both scenes depict the cruelty inflicted upon the imam and his followers by the army of the Umayyad caliph. The harsh contrast in color, inherent to the woodcut medium, adds to the subject’s macabre effect. The borders of the original panel included the deliberately ambiguous phrase, “Who is this Hossein the world is crazy about?”—alluding to both the artist himself and the Shiite imam.1 Zenderoudi uses national, folkloric, and religious content to signify continuity with the Iranian present while simultaneously working through the concerns of the 20th-century artist. His choice of these two scenes from the Karbala repertoire, already familiar as frequent subjects of coffee house paintings, is also important. Zenderoudi learned printmaking techniques from Marcos Grigorian, another artist whose work is in the NYU Art Collection. Grigorian actively supported coffee house painting by commissioning the artists’ works, organizing exhibitions of them, and most importantly in this case, urging his students to adopt coffee house paintings as models in their own work.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), 69.