An Aristocratic Smithy
Leaf from the Read Persian, after Ḥabīb-Allāh al-Mashhadī
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Part of a Persian prince's education included gaining proficiency in a craft. For example, Ibrāhīm Mīrzā, the nephew of Shah Tahmāsp (r. 1524–76), excelled in carpentry and made musical instruments. Here a youth in a bright orange robe and henna-stained fingernails is making a horseshoe. This painting and three others in the Read Persian album appear to be copies of lost works by Ḥabīb-Allāh al-Mashhadī, an important painter at Governor Shāmlū's court.
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.