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.
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Title:Princely Hawking Party
Artist:Attributed to Mirza 'Ali (Iranian, active ca. 1525–75)
Geography:Made in Iran, Qazvin or Mashhad
Medium:Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:Overall page: H. 18 7/8 in. (47.9 cm) W. 8 3/16 in. (20.8 cm) Inner border: H. 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm) W. 6 7/16 in. (16.4 cm) Mat: H. 24 in. (61 cm) W. 19 in. (48.3 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1912
Princely Hawking Party
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]
1. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (no. 14.624). Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. Les miniatures orientales de la collection Goloubew au Museum of Fine Arts de Boston. Ars Asiatica, 13. Paris and Brussels,1929, pp. 43–44, no. 63 a, b, pls. 36–37.
2. Dickson and Welch 1981, vol. 1, pp. 150, 153, fig. 205.
3. Ahmadibn Mir Munshi al-Husaini. Calligraphers and Painters: A Treatise by Qadi Ahmad, Son of Mir- Munshi (circa A.H. 1015/A.D. 1606). Translated by V[ladimir] Minorsky. Smithsonian Institution Publication 4339. Freer Gallery of Art Occasional Papers, vol. 3, no. 2. Washington, D.C., 1959, p. 186.
[ E. Kalebdjian, New York, until 1912; sold to MMA]
Venice. Fondazione Giorgio Cini. "Miniature Islamiche dal XIII al XIX Secolo," 1962, no. 92.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971, no. 160.
Cambridge, MA. Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums. "Wonders of the Age: Masterpieces of Early Safavid Painting," March 29, 1980–May 18, 1980, no. 85.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17–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).
Grube, Ernst J. "from Collections in the United States and Canada." In Muslim Miniature Paintings from the XIII to XIX Century. Venice: N. Pozza, 1962. no. 92, pp. 114–15, ill. pl. 92 (b/w).
Robinson, Basil William. "Drawings of the Masters." In Persian Drawings from the 14th through the 19th century. Boston and Toronto: Shorewood Publishers Inc., 1965. pp. 78, 135, ill. pl. 46 (b/w).
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1970. no. 160, p. 182, ill. (b/w).
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).
Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). ill. p. 32 (color).
Swietochowski, Marie, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Islamic Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1978). p. 33, ill. p. 33 (b/w).
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. no. 85, pp. 214–17, ill. p. 216 (b/w).
Dickson, Martin, and Stuart Cary Welch. The Houghton Shahnameh. Vol. vols. I & II. Cambridge, Mass. and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1981. vol. 1, pp. 150, 153, ill. fig. 205.
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 102–3, ill. fig. 76 (color).
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
. 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, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 141, pp. 212–14, ill. p. 213 (color).
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