Art/ Collection/ Art Object

"Standing Youth in a Cape", Folio from the Bellini Album

Object Name:
Album leaf
late 16th century
Attributed to Iran
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Painting: H. 7 in. (17.8 cm)
W. 4 1/16 in. (10.3 cm)
Page: H. 17 7/8 in. (45.4 cm)
W. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm)
Binding: H. 18 3/16 in. (46.2 cm)
W. 13 7/8 in. (35.2 cm)
D. 7/8 in. (2.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Louis V. Bell Fund, 1967
Accession Number:
Not on view
This drawing of a turbaned man dressed in a cape contains subtle clues to the subject’s station in life. The feather and floral spray tucked into his turban and the string of black stones draped over it indicate high social standing. Additionally, his short sword and flanged mace suggest that he is a soldier. As is evident from the illumination that surrounds and partly covers the turban feather, the niche in which the figure stands was added to the page after the drawing was completed.
Certain details, such as the line of varying thickness defining the hem of the robe and the nervous hooks forming the turban fringe, recall drawings from the 1590s by the Safavid court artists Riza-yi ‘Abbasi and Sadiqi Beg. However, the treatment of the man’s physical features—the straight line of his mouth, his thick, dark sideburns, and the placement of his feet—is incompatible with the work of those two artists. Although the maker of this drawing therefore remains unknown, only a very talented hand could have produced its flowing, undulating line and combination of solidity and movement.
This drawing is among those that have been mounted in the so-called Bellini Album. As David Roxburgh has proposed, this album was not assembled in the reign of the Ottoman sultan Ahmed I (1603–17), as stated by F. R. Martin, its first European owner, but was in fact concocted by Martin himself from paintings, drawings, calligraphies, and European prints of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.[1] Roxburgh has demonstrated that many of the most important Persian works that are said to be original to the Bellini Album were actually taken from the album that Dust Muhammad compiled for the Safavid prince Bahram Mirza in 1545.[2] These works retain the characteristic attributions and illuminated decoration added at the time the Bahram Mirza Album was assembled. Although the style of illumination in the niche above the figure’s head here copies that found on a portrait of Hatifi by Bihzad, once from the Bellini Album and now known to have come from the Bahram Mirza Album,[3] the late sixteenth-century style of drawing precludes the possibility of the drawing’s having come from the Bahram Mirza Album. Instead, the addition of the illuminated niche indicates a later campaign of "improvement" to enhance the appearance of the works in the Bellini Album.
Sheila R. Canby in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Roxburgh 1998, p. 32.
2. Ibid., pp. 33–41. The Bahram Mirza Album is in the Topkapı Palace Library (no. H. 2154). The works were removed from the Bahram Mirza Album and then placed in the so-called Bellini Album temporarily before being sold and removed from it.
3. Ibid., p. 34.
[ Art market, Istanbul, before 1912; sold to Martin]; F. R. Martin, Stockholm (in 1912); Hagop Kevorkian, New York (until d. 1962; his estate sale, Sotheby's, London,December 6, 1967, no. 213, to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 13, 1989–December 31, 1989, no. 21.

Martin, F. R. The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th century. vol. 1. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1912. pp. 59-60, ill. fig. 21.

"The Property of the Kevorkian Foundation, December 6, 1967." In Highly Important Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1967. no. 213, p. 75.

Swietochowski, Marie, and Sussan Babaie. Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989. no. 21, pp. 52-53, ill. pl. 21 (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. 150, p. 223, ill. p. 223 (color).

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