A Young Lady Reclining After a Bath
Leaf from the Read Persian Album, by Muḥammad Mu˒min
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
There are depictions of women bathing in Islamic painting. (For example, they appear regularly in Niẓāmī's Khamsa, in which Khusrau sees Shīrīn bathing.) This painting by Muḥammad Mu˒min, however, is not part of a story: it simply depicts a woman daydreaming after her bath. Although ancient statues of Ariadne sleeping and recumbent Venuses by Venetian masters come to mind, no direct influence can be demonstrated. The subject's hips are covered by a blue cloth with rows of golden ducks, which symbolize purity and were used to decorate coverlets for marriage beds. It is doubtless that the young woman thinks only of her beloved.
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.