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Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan
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Seated Courtier with His Falcon
Leaf from the Read Persian Album. Herat (Afghanistan), ca. 1600, by Ḥabīb-Allāh al-Mashhadī.
330 x 229 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911.; MS M.386.1.

Muslims were noted for their skill and knowledge of falconry. Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1212–50) ordered Latin translations of works by the Arab falconer Moamin and the Persian Ghatrif. Here a nobleman seems to converse lovingly with his hunting falcon, which rests on his knee rather than on his gloved hand. He wears a skullcap under his turban, and two gold knives dangle from his waist. The gold and silver surfaces have been tooled. The painting is probably by Ḥabīb-Allāh al-Mashhadī (fl. 1595–1610), who worked for Ḥusain Khān Shāmlū in Qazvin and in Herat during the 1590s. He was later taken by Shah ˓Abbās to Isfahan.

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.

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