H. 18 5/8 in. (47.3 cm)
W. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm)
H. 24 in. (61 cm)
W. 19 in. (48. 3 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1912
Not on view
This painting, attributed to Mirza 'Ali, is the left half of a double‑page composition (shared with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) representing a pause during a hunt. Here, a youth straddling a rock cups the chin of a bare‑chested boy whose upper arms are lined with burn marks, indicating that he is a Sufi, or follower of the mystical path, who has burned himself as a sign of his love of God.
This painting is the left half of a double-page composition that represents a pause during a hunt. Two falconers kneel in the foreground, one holding his bird of prey on his gloved left hand while the other gestures toward him. The right-hand page, in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, contains the key figure in the composition, a beardless princely youth who strokes a falcon’s throat. Like the young admirer holding a white staff in the left-hand page, he wears a brilliant orange-red robe and a black feather in his turban, a sign of high status. The twisting tree in the background here echoes the more dramatically gnarled tree on the facing page. Both folios have been mounted as album pages with examples of poetry in nasta‘liq script on their recto (Boston) and verso (New York) and with very fine gold-sprinkled marbled outer margins. Originally, the composition would have formed either the double-page frontispiece or endpiece of a manuscript.
By the 1530s court paintings in Iran had evolved to include vignettes not directly relevant to the main subject of the picture. Here, a youth straddling a rock cups the chin of a bare-chested boy whose upper arms are lined with burn marks. These wounds and the boy’s state of undress indicate that he is a sufi, or follower of the mystical path. Sufis burned themselves to show their love for God and their ability to override carnal passions. Nonetheless, they are often depicted in Persian painting as the love object of other, less mystically inclined young men.
Stuart Cary Welch has attributed this work to Mirza ‘Ali, who worked at the court of Shah Tahmasp and later under the patronage of Sultan Ibrahim Mirza in Khurasan in the 1550s and 1560s. As the son of Sultan Muhammad, the most visionary of Tahmasp’s artists, Mirza ‘Ali had grown up at the Safavid court. The figural style of this painting, marked by elongated, slender bodies, long necks, and double chins, is typical of this artist’s work for Sultan Ibrahim Mirza. This mode remained current until the late 1580s, when Shah ‘Abbas I came to the throne and revived the court atelier. Whether Mirza ‘Ali was living in Mashhad or Qazvin is unclear, but the style—most often referred to as the Qazvin style—is that associated with the Safavid court in general in the period from 1555 to 1580.
Sheila R. Canby in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
[ E. Kalebdjian, New York, until 1912; sold to MMA]
Venice. Fondazione Giorgio Cini. "Miniature Islamiche dal XIII al XIX Secolo," 1962, no. 92.
Cambridge, MA. Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums. "Wonders of the Age: Masterpieces of Early Safavid Painting," March 29, 1980–May 18, 1980, no. 85.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17, 1991–August 18, 1991, no catalogue.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 50, ill. fig. 26 (b/w).
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Welch, Stuart Cary. A King's Book of Kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. pp. 73-75, ill. fig. 17 (b/w).
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Grube, Ernst J. Studies in Islamic Painting. London: Pindar Press, 1995. p. 421, ill. fig. 14 (b/w).
Canby, Sheila R. "The Drawings and Paintings of Riza-Yi Abbasi of Isfahan." In The Rebellious Reformer of Isfahan
. London: Azimuth Editions, 1996. pp. 220, 227, ill. fig. 16 left.
Sims, Eleanor, B. Marshak, and Ernst J. Grube. "Persian Painting and its Sources." In Peerless Images. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 145, pp. 229-32, ill. fig. 145 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 141, pp. 212-214, ill. p. 213 (color).