Painting by Habiballah of Sava (active ca. 1590–1610)
Illustrated album leaf
Attributed to present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Page: W. 11 7/8 x H. 8 in. (30.1 x 20.3 cm); Painting: H. 7 3/4 x W. 5 in. (19.7 x 12.7 cm)
Purchase, Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, The Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection, Edward J. Gallagher Jr. Bequest, and Richard S. Perkins and Margaret Mushekian Gifts, 1992
Studies such as this superb example of a richly caparisoned royal horse of Arabian stock, with a small head and an elegant swan's neck, abound in fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century Iranian, Turkish, and Indian paintings and drawings. Many of these works of art either emphasize a prince's dashing horsemanship as an allegory of his royal power and ruling intellect or depict him dismounting in order to show proper humility before a holy man. In this painting, there is no denying the sheer delight of the artist–and no doubt of his royal patron–in dwelling on the beauty of the steed. Habib Allah demonstrates his virtuosity by adorning the saddlecloth with calligraphic, fantastically elongated, serrated leaves interspersed with blossoms, a popular drawing style in sixteenth-century Turkey and Iran known by the Persian word saz, or "fashioning."
Signature: (In Persian, in nasta'liq script; in front of horse's forelegs): "Design by Habib Allah"; (in Persian, on reverse, calligraphy signed by): "The miserable servant Shah Muhammad al-Katib al-Mashhadi".
Inscription: Signature in Persian in nasta‘liq script:
راقمه حبیب الله
Habiballah painted it
Howard Hodgkin, London; [ Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd., New York, until 1992; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part II: Vegetal Patterns," September 10, 1998–January 10, 1999, no catalogue.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 50 (1991–1992). p. 15, ill. (color).
Walker, Daniel S., Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Annemarie Schimmel. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1991-1992." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 50 (Fall 1992). p. 15, ill. (color).
Alexander, David, Maktabat al-Malik Abd al-Aziz al-Ammah, Daniel S. Walker, and Helmut Nickel. Furusiyya. The Horse in the Art of the Near East, edited by David Alexander. vol. 1. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: King Abdulaziz Public Library, 1996. pp. 190-191, ill. fig. II (color).
Hillenbrand, Robert, ed. Persian Painting from the Mongols to the Qajars : Studies in Honour of Basil W. Robinson. Pembroke Persian papers, vol. 3. London; New York: I.B. Tauris & Company, Ltd., 2000. pp. 289, 292, ill. I, H.15 (b/w), p. 284.
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. 143, pp. 215-216, ill. p. 216 (color).