Mohammed Reza Beig, The Persian Ambassador to France

Oval portrait painting,
Materials and technique: oil on canvas
Size: only 3 inches
By Antoine Coypel, a French artist
Possibly last sold at Sotheby's New York auction
Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]
تصویر محمد رضا بیگ, سفیر صفوی در دربار لوئی چهاردهم امپراطور فرانسه
This portrait was created by Antoine Coypel. According to Wikipedia, he lived between 1661 and 1722 and worked as a history painter in the French court. He was a son of the French painter Noël Coypel. This portait was created during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.

The subject of this painting is Mohammed Reza Beg, or according to French sources Méhémet Riza Beg, the Persian Ambassador Extraordinary to France, during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. He was sent to France by the order of Shah Sultan Husayn of Safavid Dynasty. His mission was to ask for French assistance to deter the Ottoman threat, and to aid Persia to fight Arab pirates in the Persian Gulf. He was able to sign a treaty of commerce and friendship between France and Persia at Versailles August 13, 1715. To French, however, the purpose of this mission was uncertain.

It is mentioned that when he came to Paris, Mohammed Reza Beig had no accreditation. Nonetheless, the king, who was convinced of his ambassadorial status, received him. The ambassador entered the Hall of Mirrors, accompanied by an interpreter. After a long audience, he attended the dinner that was given in his honor. He left the palace of Versailles after visiting the young crown prince Louis XV whom he liked. It is recorded that his gifts to the king were also unimpressive. The French thought that he was only a provincial dignitary putting on a show for his own ends. This was possibly due to Persians' lack of diplomatic maturity or experience which confused the French court.

As a result of this diplomatic mission, a Persian consulate was established in the Mediterranean port of Marseille for the trade with the East. However, The French attempt to establish commercial relations with Persia ended in failure due to the turbulent political situation of that period in the history, but also to its geographical location and difficult rivalry with Ottoman Empire and Russia.

During his residence in France, the ambassador had a very lavish life style. He also had and a love affair with a Georgian woman and impregnated her. On his Journey back to Persia, he spent the French King's gifts since he had no money left. He finally committed suicide as he learned that the Persian government was unhappy with his failures. His failure is similar to the recent story of an Iranian diplomat Brazil. It seems the history does repeats itself.

Ironically, his romance with that woman had a great impact on French and English literatures. A book called Amanzolide, story of the life, the amours and the secret adventures of Mehemed-Riza-Beg, Persian ambassador to the court of Louis the Great was written about him in France and was soon translated into English. It is also claimed that the embassy inspired Persian Letters (Lettres Persanes) of Montesquieu, which was published in 1721. [9] [10]

By Antoine Coypel, The Persian embassy to Louis XIV, 1715