Inhabited Exotic Foliage
Leaf from the Read Persian Album, probably by Riżā Cabbāsī
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Saz, or "enchanted forest" drawings, inhabited with all kinds of creatures, were popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This black and red ink drawing contains sixty-two representations—mostly heads of humans, animals, and birds, interspersed among Chinese-style blossoms and leaves. A small hand near the head of the large bird in the upper center points to the date 1625–26, while a second hand above the sitting fox points to an inscription stating that the work is one conferring a gift of Herat.
The drawing is probably by the Persian artist Riżā ˓Abbāsī, who depicted humans and animals in a similar style. The love poem in the border begins and ends with references to the garden where the beloved displays her loveliness and her face.
The Read Persian Album
Pierpont Morgan's 1911 purchase of two albums (one Persian, one Mughal) from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, London, proved to be an important turning point in the history of the Morgan Islamic collection. Belle da Costa Greene, Morgan's librarian, accompanied by art historian and collector Bernard Berenson, first saw paintings from the albums at the great exhibition of Islamic art in Munich the previous year. She wrote to Read that they were among the finest works exhibited there and that this important school should be represented in Morgan's collection, asking him to give Morgan the right of first refusal. The Persian album was begun by Husain Khān Shāmlū, governor of Herat (r. 1598–1618), and possibly continued by his son and successor, Hasān Shāmlū (d. 1646). Fifteen of its twenty-seven sheets, once bound accordion style, are presented here. Many of the paintings were made in Herat itself.