The album from which this leaf comes was formerly known as the Album of the Emir of Bokhara. It should now more properly be called The Read Album, the bulk of which is in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (M.386). It has recently been established that the miniatures and calligraphies in this album were made under the patronage of Husayn Khan Shamlu (d.1618), the governor of Herat, first cousin and personal friend of Mirza Abbas, later Shah Abbas. Arguably the most powerful man in Iran in the early 17th century, Husayn Khan Shamlu was Governor General of Khorasan and a considerable patron of the arts. The album contains two other images of youths with falcon both associated with Habib Allah (M.386.1 and M.386.4).
The attribution to Habib Allah of the present lot is based on the treatment of the drapery of his outsize turban and the face. The facial features particularly resemble those of the young hunter carrying his musket in Berlin, with a softening of the brows where they meet, the slight smile and straight nose. (Kuhnel E., La miniature en Orient, Paris, p.87). The young man is elegant and aristocratic in appearance, and the painting probably dates to the artist's years in Isfahan in the early 17th century.
What little is known of the life of Habib Allah comes from the treatise of Qadi Ahmad. He records how the artist moved to Isfahan from Qum to work in the capital as a painter. He was active in the late 16th and early 17th century, but few of his works are known. Only ten works bear his signature: A Young Hunter Carrying his Musket in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin; A Young Hunter Loading a Matchlock in the Topkapi Saray Library, Istanbul; A Seated Lady in an Orange dress, also in the Topkapi; A Seated Lady, in a private collection in London; A Young Man with a Bow, in the collection of Abolala Soudavar; A Chained Dromedary in the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm; A Caparisoned Camel, present whereabouts unknown; A Portrait of a Stallion, the Metropolitan Museum, New York; The Conference of the Birds, In Farid al-Din's Mantiq al-Tair, also in New York; A Pastoral Scene, present whereabouts unknown.
Schmitz B., Islamic and Indian Manuscripts and Paintings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1997, pp. 111-117
Swietochowski M.L., "Habib Allah", in Hillenbrand, R. ed., Persian Painting from the Mongol to the Qajars, London, 2000, pp. 283-299
We are grateful to B.W. Robinson for his help in cataloguing this work.