Courtly couples in spring gardens were a popular theme of paintings made in Iran and Iraq during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; the present example exhibits features that are both common and unusual in such works. The gold-embroidered clothing worn by the central couple and their attendants has many parallels in pictures from centers as far-flung as Baghdad, Tabriz, Shiraz, and Herat. It is also typical that the emotional connection between the main protagonists is conveyed by their actions and not by their facial expressions.
Leaning against the trunk of a flowering tree, the young woman glances up from an open manuscript, which has a long, narrow format typical of books of love poetry. Her suitor’s ardor is expressed through his kneeling posture and the wine cup he offers her. That these compositional elements—a garden setting and a youth offering a wine cup to a woman resting against a flowering tree—appear in both an earlier drawing in Berlin and a later painting in the David Collection, Copenhagen, may indicate that the three elements form a compositional unit. The tree was probably based on a Chinese painting of a flowering branch of a prunus, emblematic of winter or early spring, to which the Persian painter has attached a trunk. Dependence on a Chinese model is evident in the gnarled silhouette of the branches as well as in the varied positions of its blossoms, some of which are seen from the side or back.
The ragged edges of the painting demonstrate that it has been forcibly removed from another context. Portions of its silk ground are said to still be visible on fol. 76r of the album Hazine 2153 in the Topkapı Palace Library. Three closely related pictures of youthful couples standing on either side of a tree have a similar provenance. One, now in the Kuwait National Museum and also executed on silk, situates the young woman and her female attendant (who also holds a metal vessel) on the left and the two handsome youths on the right.
The use of silk as the support for the present work is unusual for Iran and is probably intended to mimic Chinese practice. A technical report concerning the ground describes it as "woven on a tension-adjustable loom with quite irregularly-prepared warps and wefts." It states that S-twisted and Z-twisted warps "alternate throughout" and that the "fabric appears to have been wetted" before the painting was executed.
Priscilla P. Soucek in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011
1. Staatsbibliotek, Berlin (Ms. Diez A, fol. 72); Grube, Ernst J. "The Problem of the Istanbul Album Pantings." Islamic Art 1 (1981), pp. 1–30, addenda [n.p.], figs. 1–490 passim , p. 6, fig. 133; and For the Privileged Few: Islamic Miniature Painting from the David Collection. Exhibition, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek. Catalogue by Kjeld von Folsach. Copenhagen, 2007, p. 92, no. 36.
2. Loehr, Max. "The Chinese Elements in the Istanbul Miniatures." Ars Orientalis 1 (1954), p. 87, fig. 54; Grube 1981 (footnote 1), pp. 2, 11, fig. 117.
3. Grube 1981 (footnote 1), p. 11 n. 2.
4. Lenz and Lowry 1989, pp. 184, 186, 346, no. 85.
5. Notes by Nobuko Kajitani in the curatorial files of the Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum.
[ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, by 1930]; Cora Timken Burnett, Alpine, NJ (by 1940–d. 1956; bequeathed to MMA)
The Iranian Institute. "Exhibition of Persian Art," 1940, Gal. VII, 78C.
Washington. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century," April 14, 1989–July 6, 1989, no. 84.
Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century," August 13, 1989–November 5, 1989, no. 84.
Pope, Arthur Upham. Masterpieces of Persian Art. New York, 1945. p. 166, ill. pl. 124 (b/w).
Ackerman, Phyllis. "The Iranian Institute, New York." In Guide to the Exhibition of Persian Art. 2nd. ed. New York: The Iranian Institute, 1940. no. Gallery VII; case 78C, p. 194.
Grube, Ernst J. "The Early School of Herat and its Impact on Islamic Painting of the Later 15th, the 16th and 17th Centuries." In The Classical Style in Islamic Painting. Venice: Edizioni Oriens, 1968. ill. pl. 16 (b/w).
Swietochowski, Marie, and Richard Ettinghausen. "Islamic Painting." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1978). pp. 18-19, ill. p. 18 (color).
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983. pp. 96-97, ill. fig. 6 (color).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 84, ill. fig. 62 (color).
Lentz, Thomas W., and Glenn D. Lowry. "Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century." In Timur and the Princely Vision. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989. no. 84, pp. 184, 186, 346, ill. p. 186 (color).
Grube, Ernst J. Studies in Islamic Painting. London: Pindar Press, 1995. p. 289, ill. fig. 101 (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. 120, pp. 6, 179-180, ill. p. 179 (color).