A number of miniatures in the present album are of considerable interest. The fluid and lively dragon crawling into life on fl.6a (see inside front cover) is signed by Murtaza Quli Shamlu, who is recorded by Karimzadeh as a commander at the court of Shah Suleyman (1077-1105 AH/1666-94 AD) with the post of ‘sword holder’ and governor of Qom (see Mohammad Ali Karimzadeh Tabrizi, The Lives & Art of Old Painters of Iran, vol. 3, London 1991, pp.1144-5). Four works by him are recorded, but only one is dated (1064 AH/1653-4 AD). A further drawing by Murtaza Quli Shamlu, a lion chained to a post, was sold in these rooms 2 May 1977, lot 95.
Folio 13b depicts a finely executed and detailed horse and rider, similar to a drawing signed by Reza-i 'Abbasi that represents part of an album page sold in these rooms, 8 July 1980, lot 212 and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (published in S. Canby, The Rebellious Reformer, London, 1996, p.52, Cat.16). The treatment of the horse's head, knotted tail, as well as the rocky landscape are so closely comparable in both drawings that we can suggest the possibility of master artist Reza-i 'Abbasi as responsible for both.
A further highlight of the muraqqa' is the portrait of the lady holding a bottle, signed by Aqa Reza, on folio 13a. Aqa Reza was the name of the young Reza 'Abbasi before he entered the service of Shah 'Abbas in the late sixteenth century. This particular drawing can be compared to a portrait of a 'Woman With a Veil', attributed to Reza-i 'Abbasi in the Art and History Trust Collection, (published in Soudavar 1992, pp.270-1, no.109). The figure's robes, as well as the light gold plants and cloud bands in the surrounding space, are very similar, as too is the execution of the face, particularly the treatment of the eyes, lips and chin.
Three miniatures of dervishes within the album (those on folios 6b, 9b and 10a) also share similarities with the work of Reza-i 'Abbasi. The kneeling dervish with his prayer beads (fl.6b) shares a striking likeness with another dervish by Reza's hand dated 1035 AH/1626 AD, particularly the nose, and it is known that dervishes were among Reza's favourite subjects (see ibid, p.269, no.108).
Whilst the simurgh chick (fl.7b), mischievous bear (fl.10b) and strutting camel (fl.11a) exhibit charm and humour, (the latter is a topos the like of which can be found in numerous places, including the Harvard University Art Museums, see S.C. Welch and K. Masteller, From Mind, Heart, and Hand, Cambridge, MA, 2004, pp.41-43, no.2), perhaps the best qualilty work in the album can be found on folio 5b, in which we see an extraordinary intertwined fantasy of birds, fish, dragons and foliage, with the stems terminating in dragon and bird heads. Complex compositions such as these, whilst decorative art works in themselves, were often working sketches for drawings and paintings, or design sketches for the decoration of objects in other media, such as textiles, ceramics, chests or bookbindings. The present example can be compared to a panel of arabesques with a dragon parrot in the Harvard University Art Museums (published in ibid, pp.38-40, no.1), as well as a decorative drawing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (M.L. Swietochowski and S. Babaie, Persian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1989, pp.12-13, no.1).
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