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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.144
Title
Courtiers with a Horse and Attendant, folio from an album
Classification
Albums
Work Type
album folio
Date
second quarter 16th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/143489
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink and opaque watercolor on paper
Dimensions
33.2 x 20.5 cm (13 1/16 x 8 1/16 in.)
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1998-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.144
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
This drawing is one of several examples that take members of the Safavid court into the country, here a landscape divided into two parts by the meandering profile of a craggy brown rock. Emphasized by its deep blue color, a pool of water, or perhaps a mountain brook, is set near the center of the composition; behind it is a smaller rock, tinted pale blue as if cooled by the adjacent water. Two trees, one with birds perched in its branches, grow from the main rock; they are defined by delicate line drawing in black ink, augmented by the selective use of gray and red washes. Two men flank the pool: one, with a youthful, trim physique, can be identified as a Safavid prince or ruler. Facing him is an older, bearded, heavy-set man— most likely a guardian and instructor (lala)— who, unlike the royal figure, has a sword and dagger attached to his belt. In their hands, the prince and guardian hold thin objects that extend into the water. They are engaged in fishing.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
119

Courtiers with a Horse and Attendant
Folio from an album
Iran, probably Tabriz, Safavid period, second quarter 16th century
Ink and opaque watercolor on paper
Folio: 33.2 × 20.5 cm (13 1/16 × 8 1/16 in.)
2002.50.144

Might it be possible to talk of a pastoral pictorial genre—defined through subject and theme—in the tradition of Persianate drawing? This drawing is one of several examples that take members of the Safavid court into the country, here a landscape divided into two parts by the meandering profile of a craggy brown rock. Emphasized by its deep blue color, a pool of water, or perhaps a mountain brook, is set near the center of the composition; behind it is a smaller rock, tinted pale blue as if cooled by the adjacent water. Two trees, one with birds perched in its branches, grow from the main rock; they are defined by delicate line drawing in black ink, augmented by the selective use of gray and red washes. Two men flank the pool: one, with a youthful, trim physique, can be identified as a Safavid prince or ruler. Facing him is an older, bearded, heavy-set man—most likely a guardian and instructor (lālā)—who, unlike the royal figure, has a sword and dagger attached to his belt. In their hands, the prince and guardian hold thin objects, depicted with attenuated, taut lines and at first sight suggesting walking sticks or canes.
But these objects extend into the water.

Although scenes of game hunting with sword, spear, and bow-and-arrow abound in Persianate paintings and drawings, and although references to this sport dominate the written sources, fishing was also practiced and enjoyed by the Safavid elite.[1] The historian Khvandamir mentions the youthful predilection for fishing of Shah Ismaʿil (r. 1501–24) and identifies the River Talvar—near Maragha and the meadows of Surluq—as a preferred site.[2] The Venetian envoy Michele Membré recounts the details of a fishing excursion by Shah Ismaʿil’s son and successor, Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524–76), to the “pools of sweet water” in the mountains near Maragha. Membré describes Tahmasp’s attire, fishing tackle (thin canes with hooks), and how the catch of the day was collected and divided;[3] the ruler seems to have spent the entire month of October 1539 in this pursuit. Tahmasp himself also mentions fishing, which he terms “fish-hunting” (shikār-i māhī), in his memoirs.[4]

Another figure in the composition is an attendant who stands to the right of the prince, at a lower elevation reflective of his lesser status. He carries two objects: a bag suspended on a cord, useful for holding fish, and a second object with a handle, perhaps used to stun and kill them. The foreground scene, fully half the composition, is given over to the prince’s horse and groom. As in other passages of the drawing, a minute black ink line delineates the forms, while other colors of ink—here red and blue—are used sparingly to highlight components of the horse’s tack and caparison and the kerchief knotted around the groom’s belt.

In its pastoral theme, technique of execution, and figural components (especially the groom, guardian, and horse), this drawing may be productively compared to An Incident at the Court, a drawing often identified as depicting the young Tahmasp, who has climbed into a tree and is being urged to leave it by a host of figures.[5]

David J. Roxburgh

[1] Images of fishing are rare but are also found in Safavid textiles. See a satin lampas published in Bier 1987, cat. 24.
[2] Khvāndamīr 1954, 3:559, 569. See, in this volume, David Roxburg's essay, “Beyond Books: The Art and Practice of the Single-Page Drawing in Safavid Iran,” 135–45, specifically 138, fig. 4.
[3] Membré 1993, 25 and 27–28. Membré emphasizes Shah Tahmasp’s preference for fishing over hunting with birds and dogs.
[4] The roles under Shah Tahmasp of the hunt and of fishing are discussed in Soudavar 1999, 52.
[5] Musée du Louvre, Paris, OA 7124: see Bahari 1996, 216–17; Melikian-Chirvani 2007, cat. 93.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 136; p. 138, ill.; pp. 252-254, cat. 119, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu