Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A Young Man Attending to a Falcon

Object Name:
early 17th century
Attributed to Iran
Silk, metal wrapped thread, and continuous floats of flat metal thread; cut and voided velvet, bouclé
Textile: L. 11 1/2 in. (29.2 cm)
W. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)
Mount: L. 16 1/8 in. (41 cm)
W. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm)
D. 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1946
Accession Number:
Not on view
The original width of this textile would have contained at least four figures back‑to‑back in mirror image. A young man, dressed in a voluminous turban and short jacket, attends to a falcon. Sumptuous effect and extra texture are achieved through the incorporation of foil‑wrapped silk loops in selected areas such as the falconer’s collar. Falconry was a princely sport, one of several hunting themes long embedded in Iranian culture.
Standing in a languid pose amid flowers, a young falconer seems to adjust the neckband of the falcon that sits on his gloved hand. Because of the interest in falconry among the princely and wealthy classes, several such themes related to the royal hunt became embedded in Iranian culture. There are numerous illustrations or evocations of falconry in painting and, to a lesser extent, in figural textiles. Although somewhat tattered in appearance owing to its reduced size, the loss of velvet pile in places, and the deterioration of the metal thread that once covered the satin ground, this fragment nevertheless is still impressive for its graceful drawing and luxury materials. A metallic shimmer comes not only from the flat ground against which the figure is posed but also, in a more textured way, from the loops of foil-wrapped supplementary wefts (bouclé) that embellish the youth’s collar, the hilt of his dagger, and details of the flowers to the side. It is possible that the "curl’d" velvets mentioned by a European observer may refer to such loops.[1]
The two other known fragments of this textile—one in the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the other in the Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.[2]—are helpful in understanding the Metropolitan Museum’s fragment because they are larger and display more of the pattern. Each one shows two young men holding falcons, standing back-to-back in mirror image. At the sides are arrangements of flowers (again, in mirror image) that match the one seen along the left edge of the present piece. The central axis between the two figures also has some floral elements, but damage has made these difficult to decipher. It has been suggested that the full loom width would have featured at least four falconers in a row.[3] However, it seems equally possible that such a pattern would have been produced in a narrower strip, with only two figures per row, as in a number of other velvets.[4] In the latter case, each row of two figures would have repeated vertically, or there might have been an alternation of rows of figures facing in and facing out.
Daniel Walker in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. McWilliams 1987–88 (reference not listed in catalogue's bibliography, maybe McWilliams 1987?), p. 167, citing Jean Chardin.
2. The Berlin piece (no. 91.71) is published in Neumann, Reingard, and Gerhard Murza. Persische Seiden: Die Gewebekunst der Safawiden und ihrer Nachfolger. Leipzig, 1988, pp. 141, 264, no. 17. The Washington fragment (no. 3.320) is illustrated in Bier 1987, p. 155.
3. McWilliams 1987–88 (see footnote 1), p. 154.
4. See, for example, a vertical strip in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, published in London 1976c, p. 110, no. 83; and another in the Art Institute of Chicago, published in Cambridge, Mass., and New York 1973–74, pp. 44–45, 67, no. 21.
[ Giorgio Sangiorgi, Rome, until 1946; to Loewi]; [ Adolph Loewi, Los Angeles, 1946; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Silks of the Safavid Period," December 9, 2003–March 14, 2004, no catalogue.

The Arts of Islam. London, 1976. no. 83, p. 110, (related).

Welch, Anthony, ed. Shah 'Abbas and the Arts of Isfahan. Cambridge and New York: Asia House Gallery, 1973. no. 21, pp. 44–45, 67, (related).

Bier, Carol, ed. "Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran 16th–19th Centuries." In Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart. Washington, D.C.: Textile Museum, 1987. p. 155, ill., (related).

McWilliams, Mary Anderson. "Prisoner Imagery in Safavid Textiles." The Textile Museum Journal vol. 26 (1987).

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. 174, p. 250, ill. p. 250 (color).

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