Habiballah of Sava (active ca. 1590–1610)
Present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
page: H. 8 in. (20.3 cm), W. 11 7/8 in. (30.1 cm)
Purchase, Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, The Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection, Edward J. Gallagher Jr. Bequest and Richard S. Perkins and Margaret Mushekian Gifts, 1992 (1992.51)
Studies such as this superb example of a richly caparisoned royal horse of Arabian stock, with a small head and an elegant swan's neck, abound in fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century Iranian, Turkish, and Indian paintings and drawings. Many of these works of art either emphasize a prince's dashing horsemanship as an allegory of his royal power and ruling intellect or depict him dismounting in order to show proper humility before a holy man. In this painting, there is no denying the sheer delight of the artist—and no doubt of his royal patron—in dwelling on the beauty of the steed. Habib Allah demonstrates his virtuosity by adorning the saddlecloth with calligraphic, fantastically elongated, serrated leaves interspersed with blossoms, a popular drawing style in sixteenth-century Turkey and Iran known by the Persian word sâz, or "fashioning."