Art PASSAGES Asian Art
Persian and Indian Paintings from the 15th â€“ 19th century
Catalogued by: Shawn Ghassemi Robert J. Del BontĂ
It is with great satisfaction that I present this outstanding collection of Persian and Indian paintings dating from the 15th to 19th century. The majority of the pieces are Persian paintings from Shiraz, an old city near the ancient ruins of Persepolis. The Shirazi School of painting had its genesis under the Inju rulers of Shiraz during the Ilkhanid period (1256-1353) with the earliest manuscript painting from this period dating to 1333. Over a brief period of time, the Mongolo-Chinese decorative elements were synthetized into the visual vocabulary of the Persian artist and utilized to illustrate the Persian literature. Vast majority of the paintings are manuscript illustrations to the Khamseh (Quintent or Five Treasures) of Nezami Ganjavi (1141â€“1217), or the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) of Abolqasem Ferdowsi (940-1020), which is a mixture of both history and myth, tracing history of Persian kings from beginning of time to the end of Sasanian dynasty (circa 651). As Political control of Shiraz changed hands from the Mongols to the Timurids, and then to the Turkmans, and eventually to the Safavids, style of the paintings changed and adapted to contemporary tastes.
Paintings Nos. 1, 2, and 3, illustrations to the Shahnameh from the Aq Quyunlu Turkman period (1452-1501), show great preference for color and a sense of space, creating landscapes punctuated by hilltop horizons. Figures and vegetation lacking perspective ornament the scene, while action, the focus of the painting, takes place in the foreground. As we move on to the Safavid period (15011736), paintings Nos. 6, 7, 8, and 9, space becomes fragmented, often forming complex flat geometrical shapes mandated by the architecture but at other times creating landscapes of overlapping hills and meadows of different color and range. Architectural details abound with various shapes and colors of tiles and bricks. The interior walls and carpets become decorated regions of intricate floral and arabesque designs. The vegetation becomes naturalistic and abundant as well. Figures with colorful costumes dot the scene and appear to be engaged in conversation all the while animating the narrative of story.
In brief, the effect is creating a jewel-like scene to intrigue the mind and delight the eye. By the 1560s, Shiraz had established itself as the premier center of manuscript production in Iran. With the rise of Esfahan to the north as the new capital of Iran in 1598 under Shah Abbas I and formation of a new style of painting under Reza Abbasi (circa 1565-1635) and his pupils, the Shiraz style of painting lost its luster and undoubtedly, her artists found work in the new capital. In writing a description of a Persian painting, I have opted to use Persian phonetics as the basis for transliteration of names as opposed to the commonly used Arabic, Turkish, or Urdu phonetics i.e. Eskandar (Persian) as opposed to Iskander or Sikandar; Ferdowsi (Persian) vs. Firdowsi or Firdusi; Khamseh of Nezami (Persian) vs. Khamsa of Nizami, etc. I would like to thank the following people for their contribution to this catalog: Robert J. Del BontĂ for his excellent research and writing of the Indian entries; Rosemary Crill, Will Kowaitkowski and Shapour Ghasemi who provided valuable insights and assisted in research of the Persian entries. Shawn Ghassemi
1 AFRASIYAB IS ASTONISHED AT SIYAVASH’S MASTERY AT A POLO MATCH (CHOGAN) Folio from a manuscript of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) of Ferdowsi
Aq Quyunlu Turkman, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1480-1490 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 12 1/2 x 8 7/8 in (32 x 22.5 cm) Painting 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 in (14.8 x 14.9 cm) Provenance: private Sarasota, Florida collection
Siyavash was a Persian prince who was accused of raping his step-mother, the queen; however he proved his innocence to his father Kay Kavus, King of Persians, by riding his horse through a giant fire, emerging unscathed. In spite of this, he was exiled to the land of Turan, ruled by Iran’s arch enemy Afrasiyab, who welcomed him into his court. Afrasiyab eventually murdered Siyavash unleashing a chain of events that ultimately brought his own demise. In the scene here, Afrasiyab is spying on Siyavash while other courtiers watch with amazement at Siyavash’s mastery at the game of polo. This painting exemplifies the Turkman style with its brilliant use of color, a high horizon half hiding the figures and crested with a golden sky patterned with swirling Chinese cloud bands. Other folios from a related manuscript are in: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.73.5.410) and (M.73.5.23)
2 BIJAN SLAYS A TURANI WARRIOR IN BATTLE Folio from a manuscript of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) of Ferdowsi
Aq Quyunlu Turkman, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1480-1490 Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 12 1/2 x 8 7/8 in (32 x 22.5 cm) Painting 6 x 5 7/8 in (15.2 x 14.9 cm) Provenance: Ismail Merchant Collection
Bijan was a Persian noble from a knightly family who on the orders of king Kay Khosrow subdued wild boars at the frontiers of Iran and Turan. After accomplishing this task, he ventured into gardens of Afrasiyab, the King of Turan and the archenemy of Iran, where he saw Afrasiyabâ€™s daughter Manijeh. He fell madly in love with her and what ensued is one of the greatest love stories of the Shahnameh. However, the scene depicted here occurs during the war of Iranians and Turanians which occurred as a consequence of Afrasiyab killing the Persian prince, Siyavash. As the armies face each other, Bijan challenges a brave of Turan, probably Human, to a fight. While other warriors look on anxiously from the hilltop, the two engage in combat down below. Eventually, Bijan comes up from behind and slays the Turani warrior. Other folios from a related manuscript are in: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.73.5.410) and (M.73.5.23)
3 BAHRAM-E CHUBINEH WEARS WOMEN’S CLOTHING AND SPINS YARN Folio from a manuscript of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) of Ferdowsi
Aq Quyunlu Turkman, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1480-1490 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 12 1/2 x 8 7/8 in (32 x 22.5 cm) Painting 6 x 6 1/8 in (15.1 x 15.6 cm) Provenance: Kevorkian Collection
Bahram-e Chubineh (Bahram Chobin) was a Sasanian senior army commander (Sepahbod) of noble descent who had won a series of military successes against the Byzantines in the West, and the Turks in the North East. His rise and popularity caused a great deal of anxiety and jealously in the monarchy. Hormozd (Hormizd IV), the Sasanian king eventually demotes Bahram to a lower rank and humiliates him further by sending him a woman’s clothing and a spindle to make yarn, a task performed only by women. In this scene, he is spinning yarn while wearing a woman’s head scarf and long robe, apparently demonstrating his obedience to the king while gaining the sympathy of his troops who look bewildered by his act. Bahram eventually starts a rebellion that lands him on the throne of Persia, albeit for a brief period of one year. Other folios from a related manuscript are in: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.73.5.410) and (M.73.5.23)
4 ESKANDAR SEEKS ADVICE FROM AN OLD SHEPHERD Folio from a manuscript of Eskandarnameh of Khamseh (quintent or Five Treasures, also known as Panj Ganj) of Nezami Ganjavi
Aq Quyunlu Turkman, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1480-1490 Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 10 5/8 x 6 ½ in (27 x 16.5 cm) Painting 4 3/8 x 3 ½ in (11.1 x 8.9 cm)
Alexander the Great (Eskandar) was assimilated into the Shahnameh and Khamseh as a Persian KingHero. In the Khamseh of Nezami, he was further exalted as a wise rulerphilosopher and ultimately a prophet. In this scene, Eskandar summons an old shepherd to his palace to seek a cure for one of his court ladies who has fallen ill. The shepherd looks up to Eskandar who is standing on the rooftop, and offers his advice. The King’s men, who fetched the shepherd, stand to the right of the image. The maiden is peeking through a window while a guardian stands in the doorway. Above the doorway is written in Arabic “al-Sultan al-Adel” or “The Just King”, a common epithet seen in Persian paintings. A rather unusual feature in this painting is the embellishment of doorway and windows with crushed mother of pearl.
5 ESKANDAR WATCHES THE SIRENS BATHE Folio from a manuscript of Eskandarnameh of Khamseh (quintent or Five Treasures, also known as Panj Ganj) of Nezami Ganjavi Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1510-1520
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 10 x 5 3/4 in (25.5 x 14.5 cm) Painting 4 3/4 x 3 5/8 in (11.1 x 8.9 cm)
Alexander the Great (Eskandar) was assimilated into the Khamseh as a Persian King-Hero and a wise ruler. The last chapter in Khamseh, the Eskandarnameh, is devoted to exploits of Eskandar. In one of his adventures on the way to China, he comes upon a shore where he hears a group of Sirens singing. He decides to spy on them and discovers them bathing. The Sirens are depicted here as maidens sporting long hair and wearing skirts frolicking in water. Eskandar appears astonished at this sight suggested by the way he points his finger to his mouth. The Turkman influence persists in this painting, however naturalism of flora and partitioning of space, for example Alexanderâ€™s tent just hidden behind the hills point to a new Safavid idiom.
6 BAHARM-E-GUR AND THE ROMAN PRINCESS IN THE YELLOW PAVILION Folio from a manuscript of Haft-Paykar of Khamseh (Seven Bodies/Beauties of Five Treasures, also known as Panj Ganj) of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 15 1/2 x 9 7/8 in (39.3 x 25 cm) Painting 10 1/2 x 6 3/4 in (26.6 x 17.2 cm)
Bahram, a Sasanian Persian prince, while staying at the fabled palace Kwarnaq of his caretaker, the Arab king Nu’maan, discovered a locked room. Out of curiosity he managed to open the room and to his astonishment he saw that the interior was decorated with images of seven beautiful princesses hailing from seven different climates. This discovery left such an impression that once Bahram became a king; he set out to find the seven princesses. Having been successful on his quest, he brought the seven princesses home and ordered his architect to construct a domed-pavilion for each princess to reside in. On the suggestion of his architect, each building was colored based on the princess’s climate and color of her planetary sign. Bahram then began to spend each successive night of the week with a different princess at her pavilion, wearing clothing that matches the color of her climate.
In the image here, Bahram spends Yekshanbeh or Sunday at the Yellow pavilion with the Roman Emperor’s daughter while both are dressed in yellow. The artist here has decided to embellish the yellow pavilion and its dome with gold for a luxurious effect.
7 KHOSROW ARRIVES AT SHIRIN’S PALACE Folio from a manuscript of Khosrow-o-Shirin of Khamseh (quintent or Five Treasures, also known as Panj Ganj) of Nezami Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 15 1/4 x 10 in (38.7 x 25.4 cm) Painting 10 1/8 x 7 1/8 in (25.7 x 18 cm)
Khosrow-o-shirin is a tale of tragic lovers first narrated by Ferdowsi and further embellished by Nezami. Khosrow (Khosrow Parviz) was a Sasanian prince and later a king who fell madly in love with Shirin, an Armenian princess and daughter of a queen, by simply hearing a description of her beauty. Shirin, in turn, fell in love with Khosrow as soon as she saw his portrait presented by Khosrow’s friend Shapour. After a long period of misfortune and missed chances, they finally met at Shirin’s castle, however Khosrow had lost his throne to the usurper Bahram-e Chobin.
Shirin rejected him and sent him away to regain his throne as a condition of their reunion. Khosrow did accomplish this task, however only with help from the Byzantine emperor on the condition of marriage to the emperor’s daughter. Furthermore he was forbidden to marry another as long as the emperor’s daughter was alive. His wife eventually died by poison apparently arranged by Shirin. At last, in the scene here, Khosorw arrives at Shirin’s palace, barely able to contain himself; the lovers are finally united.
8 SULTAN SANJAR AND THE OLD WOMAN Folio from a manuscript of Makhzan ul-Asrar (the Treasury of Secrets) of Khamseh (Quintet or Five Treasures) of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560.
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 15 3/8 x 9 7/8 in (39 x 25 cm) Painting 9 x 7 1/4 in (22.8 x 18.5 cm)
Makhzan ul-Asrar deals with moral tales and ethical teachings through the use of parables and fables. In the parable here, Sultan Sanjar (r. 1117â€“57), a Seljuq ruler, is out on a hunting expedition when suddenly an old woman stops him. She grasps the hem of his coat to complain of her mistreatment and abuse at the hands of sultanâ€™s police, how she was dragged out in the middle of night, was beaten and accused wrongfully. She goes on to tell the Seljuq ruler that his conquests are nothing to be proud of when he does not rule with justice. She further admonishes him that a good king protects his weak and poor subjects. She finally tells him that his days are numbered and his good deeds and justice will be the only thing that will save him he should take her words to heart.
Sultan Sanjar and his retinue appear stunned by her bold and fearless remarks; some soldiers argue in disbelief. The artist has created a masterful image with bright colorful figures engaged with one another, moving against a backdrop of lavender-blue hills capped with a golden sky. Another folio with a closely related composition, although slightly later in age is published in Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 243, cat. 104, ill.
9 MAJNUN IN THE DESERT Folio from a manuscript of Leyli-o-Majnun of Khamseh (quintent or Five Treasures) of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 15 1/2 x 10 in (39.3 x 25.4 cm) Painting 8 1/4 x 6 7/8 in (21 x 17.5 cm)
Leyli-o-Majnun was originally an Arabic tragic love story that was adopted and embellished by the Persians. Majnun, who was first named Qays, was a poet who falls in love with his cousin Layla (Leyli in Persian). However, she was forbidden by her father to marry Majnun. Qays was so obsessed with Layla that he walked around aimlessly reciting poetry written for her in public and refused to eat or sleep. Layla was forced to marry another but continued to love Qays. Upon hearing this news, Qays ran off to the desert to live among the animals hence acquiring his nickname the Majnun, which in Arabic means “possessed by a Jinn”, synonymous with crazy. Although, they met a few times, they were unable to be together. Layla eventually died heartbroken and Majnun fell dead soon after hearing of Layla’s death; only wishing to be united with her in the next world.
In the image here, lavender and yellow hills crested with a golden sky beautifully, albeit somewhat surreal, create settings of a rocky desert landscape, which surrounds a lush oasis with a meandering brook. It is here where we find an emaciated Majnun seated atop a boulder caressing a doe, surrounded by his animals, which have kept him company during his years of isolation. Most are in pairs and appear perfectly calm, although they include animals that should be hostile to one another. The artist adds whimsy to an otherwise tragic scene by depicting a bear seated in the foreground bottom left, sporting a human body.
10 BAHRAM-E GUR KILLS THE DRAGON Folio from a manuscript of Haft-Paykar of Khamseh of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560-1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 13 3/4 x 9 in (35 x 22.8 cm) Painting 8 3/8 x 6 3/8 in (21.3 x 16.2 cm)
One day Bahram-e Gur after consuming much wine went out hunting Gur (an onager or wild ass). After much searching, he spotted a she-onager that was beautiful and exceptional in appearance. After a long chase through the desert, he was led by the onager to a rocky outcrop where he discovered a cave. To his amazement, he saw a sleeping dragon guarding the cave, belly swollen from its meal of onager. With an extra dose of bravado, he gets off his horse and draws his bow and blinds the dragon with a two-prong arrow. Without hesitation he engages the weakened dragon. He grabs the dragon by the head and rips its mouth open before decapitating it. Soon after, he enters the cave, discovers a treasure chest the likes of which he has never seen and orders his troops to retrieve the chest and carry it off with the use of three hundred camels.
11 ESKANDAR MOURNS THE DYING DARA Folio from a manuscript of Haft-Paykar of Khamseh of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560-1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 13 x 9 in (33 x 22.8 cm) Painting 8 3/8 x 6 3/8 in (21.3 x 16.2 cm)
The scene here depicts Alexander comforting the dying Dara (Darius III, last Achaemenid King of the Persians) in his lap as he weeps. Darius was on the run from Alexander’s army for several years following sack of the Persepolis, the capital city of the Persians, and was eventually murdered by his servants, who appear to the left in this image with hands bound behind their backs and shaven heads. Numerous figures fill the landscape adding a formality to the situation suggesting a funeral procession. Alexander’s high regard for his fallen foe is evident here as he agrees to grant Dara’s dying wish to marry his daughter Roshanak (Roxana).
12 ALEXANDER DISCOVERS THE SEVENTY PHYSICIANS WHO DIED REJECTING HERMES Folio from a manuscript of Eskandarnameh of Khamseh of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560-1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 13 3/4 x 9 1/4 in (35 x 23.5 cm) Painting 8 7/8 x 6 1/2 in (22.5 x 16.5 cm)
This folio is from the second chapter in the Eskandarnameh, called Kheradnameh-e Eskandari (Alexanderâ€™s book of wisdom). In this rather strange scene, the philosopher Hermes has been discussing and arguing his principals of wisdom with seventy philosophers from all over the realm. His attempts to convince the philosophers of his truths fail three times. After enduring their rejection and suffering their ridicule, Hermes casts a spell, which paralyzes and kills the men all at once. The artist depicts the men falling all over each other as they die. Strangely enough, Alexander arrives at the scene and approves of Hermesâ€™s act.
13 MEN BATHING AT A HAMMAM Folio from a manuscript of unknown literary source
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560-1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 13 3/4 x 8 3/4 in (35 x 22.3 cm) Painting 7 1/8 x 6 3/4 in (18 x 17.2 cm)
The scene shows a lively group of men and boys bathing. The text tells us this is no ordinary bathhouse, but a special one. It apparently does not need heating nor piped in water for it has an eternal spring that supplies it with hot water. The whole scene is a sumptuous one divided into multiple subtley colored registers; each decorated with colorful tiles, or painted with floral designs. Three multi-colored glass domes cap the arched ceiling of the hammam. Golden and silvery washbowls are scattered on the bath floor. Even the brightly colored lungis (wraps) that the men are wearing are hemmed, some even studded with flowers. The scene is beaming with activity; a man in foreground is getting his head shaved. Another man is getting exfoliated by an attendant using a leef, or luffa (Urdu). Three men in the upper register are absorbed in discussion while cooling off in a water tank. The scene truly relates the atmosphere at a bathhouse intended for cleansing, relaxation, and socialization.
14 MEN GATHERING FOR A FEAST Folio from a manuscript from a manuscript of Kulliyat Complete Works) of Bushaq At’ameh-e Shirazi
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1560-1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 9 3/4 x 5 7/8 in (24.8 x 15 cm) Painting 7 x 4 3/4 in (18 x 12 cm)
Bushaq At’ameh-e Shirazi also known as Maulana Jamaluddin Abu Ishaq Hallaj At’ameh Shirazi, sometimes referred to as the “gastronomic poet”, was a Sufi poet from Shiraz (died 1427). Using culinary terms, he wrote satirical poetry as a parody of Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, Diwan-e Hafez, and works by other Sufi poets. In his Kulliyat he describes various savory and sweet dishes and the occasions associated with each again creating a parody of a battle or war. He even hints at some recipes and how to prepare them. The scene here is described in the Masnavi of “dastan-e muz’ affar va Bughra”, or the “Story of Saffron rice and meat pie”. He goes on to describe in funny detail the battle between the two and their armies as a parody of the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. He titles the end of this section humorously as “Mourning the death of meat pie while eagerly awaiting to serve the Saffron Rice”. He finally describes partaking in the feast of Saffron rice in terms of the chaos of a battlefield. 40
15 LAYLA AND MAJNUN AT SCHOOL Folio from a manuscript of Leyli-o-Majnun of Khamseh of Nezami
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 11 5/8 x 7 3/4 in (29.5 x 19.5 cm ) Painting 5 1/2 x 3 in (13.8 x 7.8 cm)
Catalogue number 9 gives background to the tragic story of Leyli-o-Majnun. In this early scene from the episode while still young Layla and Majnun (Qays), the tragic lovers, discover each other in school (Madreseh) for the first time and fall in love, a love which endures through their entire lives. The two sit on a rug facing their teacher while other boys and girls are scattered around the floor, reading, writing or discussing texts. For another folio showing a similar scene, see: Marianna Shreve Simpson, Arab and Persian Painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1980), p. 115, no. 74.
16 A SPRING FEAST Page from an unknown muraqqa‘
Safavid, Shiraz, Iran, circa 1570
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 10 7/8 x 6 5/8 in (27.5 x 17 cm) Painting 9 1/4 x 5 3/8 in (23.5 x 13.5 cm)
From the late 16th century, compositions of calligraphy specimens combined with paintings forming a single page called muraqqa‘ or literally a patchwork, became a popular practice. These single page compositions eventually would find their way into albums, also called muraqqa‘, which were bound and boarded for the nobles and wealthy patrons. Illustrated here is a muraqqa‘ page combing couplets of poetry and prose in nasta‘liq and encircling a painting of a group of men having a feast on the veranda. The bold nasta‘liq calligraphy couplet divided between top and bottom apparently alludes to the coming of spring. The blossoming trees and the festive mood is evident from the wine and food offerings between the men.
17 BAHRAM-E GUR HUNTS OSTRICHES Folio from a manuscript of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) of Ferdowsi
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, circa mid 17th century
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 13 3/4 x 8 5/8 in (35 x 22 cm) Painting 8 x 5 1/2 in (20.2 x 14 cm)
Bahram-e Gur was a Persian Sasanian King who was the model exemplar of hunting prowess. His epithet, Gur, comes from his excellence in hunting swift-footed onager, a Persian wild ass or Gur. Bahram was so skilled in using a bow and arrow that once he tied the hind leg and ear of a gazelle with a single arrow as depicted here in the lower register. In the upper register, once again Bahram is depicted hunting Ostriches, which not being native to Persia, are rendered by the artist as giant ducks, however having ostrich feet.
18 ROSTAM SEIZES KHAGAN-E CHIN Folio from a manuscript of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) of Ferdowsi
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, circa mid 17th century
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Folio 14 x 8 5/8 in (36 x 21.5 cm) Painting 8 x 5 1/2 in (20.2 x 14 cm)
Following the murder of the Persian prince Siyavash by king of Turan, Afrasiyab, Iranians started a war of vengeance against Turan. Turan sought and gained the help of Khaqan-e Chin (King of China), the king of India, and the king of Kushan in joining their armies to fend off the Iranians. The episode here follows the defeat of Iranians in a battle and the subsequent arrival of the legendary hero of the Shahnameh, Rostam, leading the Iranian army. In his first battle, he faces off the Khaqan-e Chin. In this vibrant scene, Rostam wearing his usual tiger-striped coat and headgear of a lion-head lassos the Khaqan-e Chin and pulls him off his white elephant. The lapis sky studded with white and flaming gold cloud bands, the golden desert, and the intermingling colors of men and beasts provide a vibrant and dynamic scene.
19 SULTAN SANJAR AND THE OLD WOMAN Folio from a manuscript of Makhzan ul-Asrar (Treasury of Secrets) of the Khamseh of Nezami
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, circa mid 17th century Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 14 ¾ x 9 1/8 in (37.5 x 23 cm) Painting 6 7/8 x 5 3/8 in (17.5 x 13.7 cm)
The painting here illustrates a story as seen in catalogue number 8. Although the composition here is similar, there are significant differences; the two paintings are separated by around 100 years and come from different centers. This painting was most likely created in Esfahan and reflects the taste and style set forth by the two most important Esfahan school painters, Reza Abbasi and his pupil Mu’in Mosavvir. The background composition to the scene is significantly different from that of catalog No. 8. The landscape is still divided into the foreground of green vegetation, middle ground of desert and high ground of rocky hills.
However, a naturalistic depiction of space vis-à-vis a distant townscape, replaces the figures peeking out from behind the hills as in No. 8. The figures also show significant changes – the faces are more Persianized (round faces, larger eyes) and we start to see the presence of women in retinue. The outfits from different types of headgear, to robes, to sashes tied around waists, all reflect the cosmopolitan styles prevalent at the capital in the mid 17th century. In summary, this painting is a product of mid 17th century Esfahan. It reflects a trend toward decreasing stylization and a move toward increasing realism, no doubt influenced by more frequent encounters with westerners and things western.
20 SALIM-E AMERI VISITS MAJNUN IN THE WILDERNESS Folio from a manuscript of Layli-o-Majnun of the Khamseh of Nezami
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, circa mid 17th century Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 14 ¾ x 9 1/8 in (37.5 x 23 cm) Painting 6 7/8 x 5 3/8 in (17.5 x 13.7 cm)
As seen in catalogue number 9 an emaciated Majnun is surrounded by his animals, which have kept him company during his years of isolation. In the scene here his uncle, Salim-e Ameri, and other tribesmen have come to see him, perhaps to persuade him to return to his people. While Salim implores his nephew to change his mind, the others turn to each other to discuss the situation. The rocky background with bears, leopards, and deer underscores the wilderness where Majnun, the “crazy” lives.
21 LOVERS DRINKING WINE Style of Habibollah
Safavid, Khorasan, Iran, circa 1590-1600 Ink, light watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 10 x 6 3/8 in (25.4 x 16.2 cm) Painting 4 7/8 x 3 3/4 in (12.4 x 9.5 cm)
Drawings and paintings of lovers were a popular subject in second half of the Safavid period. The Shah Abbas court artist Reza Abbasi (1565-1635) and his pupils had great impact in popularizing this genre. These pieces were exclusively made for albums (muraqqa‘s) with compositions often embellished with calligraphy, poetry, or prose highlighting the scene as seen here. The lovers enjoy a private moment with a drink of wine. The young man appears intoxicated, presumably he has already drank too much; he has taken his turban off and leans heavily on the bolster. Nonetheless his paramour is persuading him to have just one more drink.
The line defining the figures is swift and precise. The robes of the lovers are embellished with gold dots with further gray tinting to the woman’s. Treatment of the faces with a long chin and the wispy hair adorning the woman’s face and the man’ s head bear strong resemblance to a drawing of “Young Man with Bow” by Habibollah from the Art and History Trust Collection illustrated in Art of the Persian Courts by Abolala Soudavar, Rizzoli, New York 1992, No. 89.
22 STANDING WOMAN HOLDING A WINE BOTTLE AND CUP Ascribed, by a later attribution, to Reza Abbasi Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, circa mid 17th century Ink, washes of color, and gold on paper Folio 12 ½ x 8 in (32 x 20.5 cm) Painting 6 ¾ x 4 3/8 in (17 x 11 cm)
Drawings of curvaceous young women, a favorite theme of Reza Abbasi, were highly popularized by him and his followers during the latter part of Shah Abbas’s reign. These were almost exclusively made as paintings for albums (muraqqa‘s) and often embellished with calligraphy to complement to the scene. Here a young woman is holding a wine flask in one outstretched hand and a cup in another. Her body sways to her left and her head to the right, creating a sinuous, sensuous pose. The background is filled with Chinese cloud scrolls and a large delineated tree, adding further movement and life to the drawing. Gilt blossoming branches and birds further embellish the background for the poetic couplets. There is a near identical composition in Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.73.5.14)
23 A TETHERED CAMEL Ascribed to Muhammad-Qasem
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, dated 1148 A.H. or 1735 A.D. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 12 1/4 x 8 1/4 in (31x 21 cm) Painting 4 3/4 x 4 1/4 in (12 x 10.8 cm)
Drawings of camels were another popular subject in the Safavid period. Often camels were depicted fighting each other; in other images, an unruly camel was shown subdued by a keeper. Other times, the camel was simply restrained by being chained to a tree stump as in the image here. The line is quite delicate, creating the outline with repeated strokes to introduce shading where hair is the thickest. MuhammadQasem (d. 1659) was a contemporary of Reza Abbasi, so it is unlikely that this drawing is by him if we were to believe the given date.
24 A PICNIC PARTY Folio from a manuscript of Divan-e Hafez Attributed to Muhammad-â€˜Ali Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, circa 1658-1659
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 9 3/4 x 6 1/4 in (24.8 x 16 cm) Painting 7 x 3 5/8 in (17.8 x 9.2 cm)
The scene here is an outdoor one typical of most of the illustrations to the book of Divan-e Hafez, known as Khwajeh Shams-ud-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi (13151390). Here a pageboy pours a cup of wine for an older man who is listening to music played by a turbaned musician and presumably reciting poetry of Hafez. The towering rocks juxtaposed opposite a sinuous leafy tree against a backdrop of wispy clouds is a typical setup used throughout the illustration of this manuscript. The two court artists, MuhammadQasem (d. 1659) and MuhammadAli (died second half 17th century) worked on at least two manuscripts of Divan-e Hafez. However, style of the painting here more closely follows that of Muhammad-Ali. Another folio is published in Art of the Persian Courts by Abolala Soudavar, Rizzoli, New York 1992, No. 125, Pg. 297. Another folio is in Smithsonianâ€™s Freer-Sackler Galleries (S1986.318). Remainders of the manuscripts are housed in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (MS 299) and the Topkapi Saray Library, Istanbul (H.1010).
25 A PRINCE IN DISCOURSE WITH A POET Fo Ascribed to Mu’in Musavvir lio
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, dated 1086 A.H. or 1675 A.D. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 13 ¾ x 9 1/2 in (35 x 24 cm) Painting 7 3/4 x 4 5/8 in (19.8 x 11.8 cm)
Images of pupil princes and learned teachers were a common theme in both Persian and Mughal art of the 17th and 18th centuries. The setting was often an outdoor scene under a tree or amidst a rocky outcrop. By the end of the 17th century, Mughal style architecture and attire worn by women and men found their way into the painting idiom of the Safavid artists. In this case, a prince, dressed in an Indian jama and sporting an Indianstyle turban, and his teacher are seated on a carpet in the foreground with a lone tree perched in the distance and townscape visible beyond the hills. The image of prince here is identical in pose to a painting of a seated youth in the National Museum of Scotland (A.1960.121). Treatment of his face also bears striking similarity with painting of a standing youth in the Nelson-Atkins Museum by Mu’in Musavvir, dated 1673 (35-30_4).
26 SHAH ABBAS RECEIVES VALI MUHAMMAD KHAN School of Muâ€™in Mosavvir
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, dated 1116 A.H. or 1704 A.D. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Painting 4 1/8 x 6 7/8 in (10.5 x 17.5 cm)
Shah Abbas (Shah Abbas I, reigned 1588 â€“ 1629) appears to gesture to his guest, Muhammad Vali Khan, an Uzbek khan, who assumes a posture of leaning forward exhibiting subservience and attentiveness. His face displays charm and shrewdness, perhaps to underscore the purpose of his visit. This scene is likely based on a mural painting in the Chehel Sotoun Palace in Isfahan, which shows a reception for the khan who has come to seek support from the Shah in his struggle for leadership of the Khanate of Bokhara. Paintings of Shah Abbas in various settings were quite popular in second half of the Safavid dynasty.
27 A COURTIER HUNTING A RAM Style of Muâ€™in Mosavvir
Safavid, Isfahan, Iran, dated 1116 A.H. or 1704 A.D. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Painting 4 x 6 5/8 in (10 x 17 cm)
A courtier on horseback looks rather anxious as he slays a ram. Hunting was a princely pursuit and served as preparation for war. It is not surprising that paintings of hunt scenes were a popular subject in Persian Art.
28 A SEATED COURTIER HOLDING A FRUIT Qajar, Isfahan or Shiraz, Iran, circa 19th century Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 11 1/4 x 7 3/8 in (28.5 x 18.7 cm)
A seated courtier in Safavid-style robe and turban is seated holding a fruit, perhaps an orange. His turban and robe is rendered in Safavid period style, however treatment of his face with shading and its realism is Qajar in style. The figure is mounted on an album page intended for a muraqqaâ€˜. The borders are finely painted in an elaborate Gul-o-bulbul (Flower and Nightingale) pattern.
29 MINIATURE OVAL PORTRAIT OF A PERSIAN BEAUTY Ascribed to Muhammad Sadeq (Sadiq) Inscribed in Persian below the portrait: Ya Sadeq ul-va’ad Inscribed in Persian in a cusped cartouche above the portrait: Kar-e khoob-e agha Muhammad Sadeq ast or “It is a good work by Mr Muhammad Sadeq”
Zand or Qajar, Shiraz, Iran, circa late 18th century Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 13 1/8 x 8 7/8 in (33.3 x 22.5 cm)
Muhammad Sadeq (active 1740–90s) was a prominent court painter during the reign of Karim Khan Zand and into early Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar’s reign. He is well known for his depiction of noble men and idealized female beauties. His subjects were painted in large life-sized canvases as well as miniatures. His female subjects were depicted as sleepy-eyed and often appear slightly intoxicated. For a very similar oval painting of a beauty framed by a floral arabesque in cusped form, see Kjeld Von Folsach, For the Privileged Few, Islamic Miniatures from the David Collection, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2007, No. 122 (176/2006). For another painting of a beauty by Muhammad Sadiq, see the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2011.184)
30 COURT MUSICIAN NAUBAT KHAN Folio from a Muraqqa‘ or album
Mughal, ca. 1580-1600
Ink, gouache, and gold on paper Folio 16 ½ x 11 ⅜ in (32 x 22.5 cm) Painting 5 ⅜ x 2 ⅞ (14.8 x 14.9 cm) Provenance: Nasli Heeramaneck Collection
Naubat Khan is easily identifiable because of his dark complexion and rather portly appearance. He is usually depicted holding a rudra vina or bin, a lute-like instrument with a large gourd at each end for resonance. He wears a chakdar jama (four pointed tunic) and a tight kulhadar turban, a type found early in Akbar’s reign. An elaborate gold patka or sash pinches his waist adding to the rotundity of the figure. The background is typical for these portraits being a solid green, but appears to have been over painted at a later date. Naubat Khan was originally called Misri Singh, later Ali Khan Kanori, and was given the title of Naubat Khan by Jahangir. Although not mentioned in the Ain-i Akbari, he does show up in a painting of the Akbarnama, proving that he was acclaimed as a musician of note during Akbar’s reign as well. Akbar’s favorite musician was Tansen who was Naubat Khan’s father-in-law. Both Tansen and Naubat Khan are seen in individual portraits form the period, a distinction reserved for the nobles and not usually given to musicians. 72
Naubat Khan was also the grandson of another famous musician Maharaja Samokhan Singh of Kishangarh noted for playing the vina. He is depicted in an Akbarnama folio datable to 1589 in the Victoria and Albert Museum London (IS.2:113-1896). It illustrates an event at the court of Akbar commemorating the conquest of Gujarat in 1572 where he is pictured quite similar in appearance to our present portrait. Other portraits of Naubat Khan are found in the British Museum, London (1989.0818.0.1); San Diego Museum of Art (1990.379); and the Boston Museum of Fine Art (17.3102).
31 BATTLE SCENE Sub-Imperial Mughal, India, circa 1610 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Painting 5 1/4 x 5 3/4 in (13.3 x 14.6 cm)
A folio likely from a manuscript of a Mughal Shahnama depicting a battle scene between two kings as attested to the crowns worn by the main antagonists. As the armies face off, the action takes place at the center where one king slays the other. The scene is filled with warriors on horseback firing arrows and throwing spears. A large elephant at the bottom grabs a warrior in his trunk. The overall flat composition is enlivened with bright colors and a true sense of action. Other related folios from a Shahnama of similar size and format are at San Diego Museum of Art, the Binney Collection (1990.331) and (1990.332).
32 STANDING COURTIER, EBD‘AL BEIG KOTWAL Inscribed in nasta‘liq down the side and next to the figure’s head: Tasvir-e Ebd‘al Beig Kotwal Aurangabad Panjah sa‘al Ebd‘al Beig Kotwal Inscribed in devanagari on the verso: Tasvir Abdal Beg Mughal, India, circa 1670-1690
Ink with pink and white wash on paper Folio 6 3/4 x 4 in (17.1 x 10.2 cm)
Apparently first a Kotwal of Lahore, the emperor Auragnzeb appointed Ebd‘al Beig to be Kotwal (governor or chief officer) of the fort at Aurangabad. This extremely sensitive portrait depicts Ebd‘al Beig as an elderly man, apparently fifty years of age per inscription, with a neatly trimmed gray beard in a pose typical of Mughal formal portraiture. He leans on a staff and has a shield and sword at his left side, which is mostly hidden by his body. A katar or punch-dagger is tucked into his sash at his waist. The application of light white and pink washes adds immensely to the effect and delineates the features of the courtier quite naturally. The reverse has a few other studies: two heads of turbaned courtiers, one with a moustache and the other with moustache and beard. A third study is a seated figure of a young Brahman. His body is sensitively outlined and the head is finely detailed, again giving the impression of a real portrait.
33 MAHARANA AMAR SINGH AND HIS SON SANGRAM SINGH Unrelated inscription in devanagri on the reverse
Rajasthn, Mewar, Udaipur, circa 1705
Ink with yellow and green wash on paper Folio 9 1/4 x 5 3/4 in (23.5 x 14.6 cm)
Maharana Amar Singh II (r. 1698-1710) sits on a carpet and leans against a bolster while smoking a hookah. The child facing him is most likely his son and heir Sangram Singh II (r. 1710-34), since a number of drawings are known depicting the two in a similar fashion. In each Amar Singh II leans against a bolster and smokes a hookah. Here Sangram Singh stands with his hands held together in greeting, while other examples have him kneeling in front of his father. The artist delineates the figures with simple means creating a sense of volume and Amar Singh sits firmly in the space defined by the carpet. The addition of the yellow wash enlivens the surface and a bit of green defines the turban of the ruler. For other examples of the Maharana and his son see: Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur, ZĂźrich: Artibus Asiae Supplementum XLIV, 2001, fig.104, p. 128, and Andrew Topsfield, Paintings from Rajasthan in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne: National Gallery, 1980, no. 56, p. 61.
34 SAVANT SINGH AND HIS BROTHER VANGH-JI Inscribed on verso: Raj sri sawant singh anand singhot kumpawat... Sri vangh? ji anandsinghot kumpawat ri sabi samvat 1792... Rajasthan, Marwar, Samvat 1792 or 1735 A.D. Ink and yellow and red washes on paper Folio 12 1/2 x 9 in (32 x 23 cm)
The inscription on the reverse gives the name of the principal figure, the man holding the mouthpiece of the hookah, as Savant Singh, the son of Anand Singh and gives his clan name as Kumpawat. It goes on to name the figure facing him as Vangh-ji, also the son of Anand Singh. Savant Singh is clearly a rather important person sitting in state on the terrace. One of his retainers carries his sword and the other holds a flask of wine and lifts up a cup. Vangh-jiâ€™s retainers hold similar attributes. There is a strong family resemblance between the two figures. The artist of this sensitive drawing positions the figures rather convincingly in space and the little bits of color enliven the surface, adding a very life-like quality to the whole. It is unclear from the inscription the name of the actual thikana, the town where they came from.
35 MARWARI THAKUR ON HORSEBACK Rajasthan, Marwar, Jodhpur, circa 1720-30 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Painting 11 3/4 x 8 5/8 in (30 x 22 cm)
Set against a solid blue background the Thakur sits bolt upright while holding a musket in his left hand and the reins in his right. The whole has a formal quality typical of these equestrian portraits from the Jodhpur region. His retainer walks beside the horse and is slightly smaller in size than the Thakur. Both figures have katars, punch-daggers tucked into their waist sashes and bags of ammunition; the retainer has a powder keg as well. The equally formal horse is elaborately decorated and struts convincingly along the grassy ground line. Its bold sorrel color offers a wonderful contrast juxtaposed against the blue background.
36 MUGHAL LADY Mughal style at Lucknow, circa 1760 Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper Folio 8 1/8 x 5 7/8 in (20.6 x 15 cm) Painting 5 1/4 x 2 3/4 in (13.3 x 7 cm)
Standing atop a curved green ground against a stark black background is a court lady of Lucknow wearing a white chador or Persian style open cloak studded with an allover red Boteh-motif ornament. Her upperclass nobility is underscored by the golden undergarment that she wears beneath her chador and the brocade shoes on her feet. Her modesty is also evident by her drawing close with one hand the hem of her chador. The borders are decorated with a repeated motif of a red rising sun emerging from a pair of green Chinese cloud-bands.
37 MAHISHASURAMARDINI By Usta Gajdhar Ibrahim
Rajasthan, Bikaner, Samvat 1820 or 1763 A.D. Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper Folio 11 3/4 x 7 3/4 in (29.5 x 19.8 cm) Painting 8 x 5 1/2 in (20.2 x 13.8 cm)
Inscribed in devanagari: Sabi shri mata ji ri shri hajura ri najara dasarava ri usate gajadhara varamara [Ibrahim] samat 1820 miti asojasuda 22 or “A nazar given to His Highness on the 8th day of Dussehra by Usta Gajdhar Ibrahim, Samvat 1820…” The eight-armed figure of the goddess Durga has severed the buffalo head of Mahishasura releasing the actual demon who she proceeds to kill. Her vahana, the tiger-like lion mount, has gotten into the act and takes a bite out of the body of the buffalo. Clearly the asura holding only a club is no match to this goddess. She holds a variety of attributes: weapons—a katar or punch-dagger, a sword, lance, discus, and rope as well as an umbrella, a snake, and a kapala or skull cup ready to collect the blood of the demon.
An inscription on the reverse identifies the painter as Usta Gajdhar Varam (Ibrahim) and gives the information that the painting was given as a nazar to a ruler. Details of the painting suggest that this artist came from the line of the famous artists of Bikaner, Ruknudddin and his son, the first Ibrahim in the line. Names in the family repeat quite often over the generations. Thanks to Naval Krishna for taking a look at the inscription and offering insights. For a discussion of Ruknuddin, his family, and followers see: Naval Krishna, “Bikaneri Miniature Painting Workshop of Ruknuddin, Ibrahim and Nathu,” Lalit Kala 21 (1990), 23-37.
38 ASAVARI RAGINI from a Ragamala series
Bengal, Murshidabad, circa 1760-1770 Ink, opaque watercolor and silver on paper Painting 8 1/8 x 5 5/8 in (20.6 x 14.2 cm)
The iconography of Asavari ragini is consistent over a great many schools of painting throughout India. The rustic lady usually sits out in the wild and either holds snakes or is surrounded by them. Here, her affinity to snakes is underscored by the snake-charmers flute lying beside her. It’s Indian name is either pungi or been and consists of a gourd into which one blows with two reed pipes attached. Wearing a skirt made of leaves Asavari sits on a low mound in a lush landscape. Her adornments consist of coral beads and pearls and clever arrangements of flowers in her hair and across her naked bosom. Snakes function as anklets and bracelets caressing her limbs. Often the scenery can be quite wild, but here the scene is calm and peaceful with a lovely lotus strewn pond contrasting with the subtle greens of the trees and hillsides.
On the reverse there is a seal of Asaf ud Daula (1748-97) who was the Nawab Wazir of Oudh (Awadh) from 1775 until his death. The seal reads “Asaf Jah Bahadur Asaf ud Daula Wazir ul Mamalek” and is dated to 1190 AH or 1776 AD. For another example of Asavari ragini from Murshidabad see: Toby Falk and Mildred Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, London: Oxford University Press/Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981, Johnson Album 36, pp. 195-99 and 370.
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Published on Mar 6, 2018