Painting: H. 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm)
W. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Page: H. 4 5/8 in. (11.7 cm)
W. 3 7/16 in. (8.7 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Gift of George D. Pratt, 1925
Not on view
The subject of horseman and groom is common in Safavid art. The rider’s handsome appearance and elegant posture embody the ideal of youthful beauty, while the groom’s sprightly step and animated expression add liveliness to the drawing. Although the minimal ornamentation suggests that this was a preliminary sketch, the precision of the line and the attention to texture allow it to stand on its own as a finished work.
The subject of the horseman and groom occurs on wall paintings, on metal objects, and on many album pages from sixteenth-century Iran. Some images show the pair preparing to ride to the hunt, while others present an idealized view of a nobleman and his servant. In this drawing a beardless youth wearing the Safavid turban with its high taj sits astride his mount, his sword suspended behind the raised skirt of his robe. Although the horse walks at a stately pace, the presence of the sword implies that these figures are proceeding toward the hunting field rather than simply parading. Despite his lower status, the groom stands out because the artist has drawn his fur cap in black and reddish ink. Red ink has similarly been used for part of the horse’s bridle, its girth, its neck ornament, and its saddlecloth. Throughout the drawing the line is crisp, the contours unbroken. Several details suggest that this work was a preliminary drawing and perhaps part of a larger composition. First, the medallion and borders of the saddle blanket have been left blank; normally these cloths would be opulently decorated. Also, both men look to the left of the page with smiling expressions, as if they are focused on something or someone humorous beyond its edge. Even the horse has an alert, almost grinning expression. Finally, the groom’s right hand has been cut off by the left edge of the page. The drawing can only tentatively be attributed to a specific Safavid artist. The proportions of the horse—the extreme narrowing of its neck just behind its ears and its very large rump and midsection—recall those of the animal in A Horseman and Groom attributed to Qadimi by Stuart Cary Welch. In the 1520s this artist had contributed Turkmen-influenced squat human figures to the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (MMA no. 1970.301.1–.123), but by the 1540s he would have adopted the newer court idiom of slender, taller ones. If this work is indeed by Qadimi, it exhibits the sense of humor, albeit somewhat muted, that was a hallmark of his earlier paintings. Sheila R. Canby in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011] Footnotes: 1. Welch 1979, pp. 202–3.
George D. Pratt, New York (until 1925; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 13, 1989–December 31, 1989, no. 15.
Welch, Stuart Cary, Sheila R. Canby, and Norah M. Titley. "Masterpieces of Early Safavid Painting, 1501–1576." In Wonders of the Age. Cambridge, MA: Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums, 1979. pp. 202–3.
Swietochowski, Marie, and Sussan Babaie. Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989. no. 15, pp. 40-41, ill. pl. 15 (b/w).
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. 149, p. 222, ill. p. 222 (color).