© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.15
People
Attributed to Mirza ‘Ali, Persian (active 16th century )
Title
Two Eminences Observed, folio from an album
Classification
Albums
Work Type
album folio
Date
ca. 1535-1540
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Tabriz
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/149259
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink on paper
Dimensions
29 x 18.9 cm (11 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
Provenance
[Charles Dikran Kelekian, New York and Paris], sold; to 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
2002.50.15
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
This drawing depicts a detailed landscape occupied by three figures: an old man and a princely figure facing each other at the center, and a youth watching them from behind a low hillock. The older figure—a man of learning and possibly an advisor—adopts a deferential pose, with his turbaned head tilted forward and down and his hands withdrawn into the long sleeves of his robe as a sign of respect. The princely man, who, as his beard indicates, has reached maturity, looks directly at his companion and gestures with both arms. His turban is elegantly wrapped, the cloth gathered in artful folds around a Safavid baton (taj-i ?aydari); he wears a ring on his left hand, carries a small bound book tucked inside his shirt, and holds a rounded object—a cushion, book, or container—between his arm and torso. The visual language of the poses suggests that he is inviting the older man to converse.
The landscape conjures a hospitable setting for this subtle human interaction. The tree around which the two figures stand offers shelter to songbirds; from its roots flow a branching rivulet edged with rocks and flowering plants. Above the high horizon, the sky is full of clouds.
The artist, who has been identified as Mirza ?Ali, has carefully modulated his use of line—whether uniform or varying in thickness—throughout the drawing. The hierarchy of thick and thin is logical: the figures and landscape elements are positioned in their respective spaces by firm delineation, while their individuality is defined by thinner lines or occasional washes that supply the details.
An attribution at the lower edge of the drawing could be read as the name Manuchihr.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
120

Attributed to Mirza ʿAli
Two Eminences Observed
Folio from an album
Iran, Safavid period, c. 1535–40
Ink on paper
Folio: 29 × 18.9 cm (11 7/16 × 7 7/16 in.)
2002.50.15

Published: S. C. Welch 2000, 322, fig. 1.

This self-assured drawing depicts a detailed landscape occupied by three figures: an old man and a princely figure facing each other at the center, and a youth watching them from behind a low hillock. The older figure—a man of learning and possibly an advisor—adopts a deferential pose, with his turbaned head tilted forward and down and his hands withdrawn into the long sleeves of his robe as a sign of respect. The princely man, who, as his beard indicates, has reached maturity, looks directly at his companion and gestures with both arms. His turban is elegantly wrapped, the cloth gathered in artful folds around a Safavid baton (tāj-i Ḥaydarī); he wears a ring on his left hand, carries a small bound book tucked inside his shirt, and holds a rounded object—a cushion, book, or container—between his arm and torso. The visual language of the poses suggests that he is inviting the older man to converse.

The landscape conjures a hospitable setting for this subtle human interaction. The tree around which the two figures stand offers shelter to songbirds; from its roots flow a branching rivulet edged with rocks and flowering plants. Above the high horizon, the sky is full of clouds. The artist, who has been identified as Mirza ʿAli,[1] has carefully modulated his use of line—whether uniform or varying in thickness—throughout the drawing. The hierarchy of thick and thin is logical: the figures and landscape elements are positioned in their respective spaces by firm delineation, while their individuality is defined by thinner lines or occasional washes that supply the details.

An attribution at the lower edge of the drawing could be read as the name Manuchihr.

David J. Roxburgh

[1] By Stuart Cary Welch: see S. C. Welch 2000. Mirza ʿAli was the son of Sultan Muhammad, one of the most important artists working for Safavid patrons in the formative period of Safavid art. For an expanded discussion by Welch of his reasoning in attributing manuscript paintings and other works on paper to Mirza ʿAli, see Dickson and S. C. Welch 1981a, 1:129–51. Further discussion of Mirza ʿAli is available in Soudavar 1992, 164, 167, and 170–72.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 136-137, ill.; pp. 254-255, cat. 120, ill.

Exhibition History

Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/07/2004 - 01/02/2005

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

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be 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