Single-page portraits of the type on the verso of our album page were very much in vogue in Isfahan in the late 16th century. As the city became more prosperous towards the end of the century, so a new class of subjects emerged, young dandies – elegantly clad, like ours, and often seemingly idle. These beautiful young men and women were typical subjects for the artists that quickly became most associated with the genre, such as Sadiqi Beg (1533-ca.1612) and Reza ‘Abbasi (ca.1560s-1635). Our figure is typical of Reza’s style and seems likely to be that of a student or close contemporary such as Habbibullah, who depicted swaying single figures drawn with the use of a fine line, closed contours and a palette of rich primary colours. For a painting of youth by Reza in which the youth is holding an apple holding an apple in a very similar pose to our painting see Sheila R. Canby, The Rebellious Reformer. The drawings and paintings of Riz-yi ‘Abbasi of Isfahan, London, 1996, p.26. Two paintings attributed to Habbibullah of seated youths similarly dressed in turbans drawn in numerous lines and a narrow waist also bear close resemblance to our painting sold in these Rooms, 17 April 2007, lot 150 and 1 May 2001, lot 95).
The calligraphy on the recto of this album page is by Shah Mahmud al-Nishapuri, also known as Zarin Qalam ('Golden Pen'), who lived and worked in Tabriz for most of his life. He was a royal calligrapher to Shah Tahmasp (d.1574) and was without doubt one of the greatest calligraphers of his time, renowned for his perfect nasta'liq. When the Shah lost interest in the arts, Shah Mahmud moved to Mashhad and worked there under the patronage of Ibrahim Mirza (d.1577) until he died (Norah M. Titley, Persian Miniature Painting and its Influence on the Art of Turkey and India, London 1983, pp.84,103,105, fig.81 and A.J. Arberry (ed.), The Chester Beatty Library. A Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts and Miniatures, Vol. II, no. 179). For further information please also see Mehdi Bayani, Ahval va Asar-e Khosh-Nevisan, Vol.I, Tehran 1345 sh, pp.295-304, Vol.II, 1346, pp. 305-307 and Minorsky, V., Calligraphers and Painters, 1959, pp. 134-137. His recorded work is dated between AH 923-982/1517-75 AD.