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Chief Executioner and Assistant of his Majesty, the late Shah

Chief Executioner and Assistant of his Majesty, the late Shah

Artist: Rattray, James (1818-1854)

Medium: Lithograph, coloured

Date: 1848

Shelfmark: X562(14)

Item number: Plate 14

Length: 17.8

Width: 25.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Print

This lithograph is taken from plate 14 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray.

According to Rattray, these portraits of the seated executioner, Mohammad Shah, and his attendant, "do not show how truly grotesque and demoniacal their appearance was", which was exaggerated by "their high fantastic caps of every conceivable semblance". To add to the horror, they did not kill cleanly, but hacked at their victims and left them to public exposure. Noone could succour those being executed, or even complete the kill, because the suffering was meant as much as a deterrent as an atonement. Rattray witnessed this himself, when Mohammad Shah tortured and killed Jaun Khan, who had assassinated Rattray's best friend. Shah, a gentleman by birth, is shown holding a painted wand surmounted by a bird, indicating his status as head of a family.

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