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Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan
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A Qizilbash and His Horse Entangles by a Dragon
Leaf from the Read Persian Album. Persia, Qazvin, ca. 1550.
378 x 241 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911.; MS M.386.6.

The Qizilbash were a group of Shi˓ite Islamic militant groups that flourished from the thirteenth century onward. In 1510 they supported the Timurid ruler Bābur in his war against the Uzbeks and won Samarqand for him. The turbans of the Qizilbash were supported by a high baton. Since such batons were worn in Persia only during the rule of Shah Tahmāsp (r. 1524–76), the painting has been dated to about the middle of the century. Although the hero has a sword and bow, he attacks the dragon with his small dagger. Both the marvelously intertwined horse and dragon are spotted.

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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