Painting of a horse and groom, inscribed ‘Riza drew it’

Qazvin, Iran, about AD 1590–95

This painting of a dappled grey horse comes from an album of similar works. The horse is not saddled, but its blanket, feather ornament and brand all suggest that it is being prepared for its owner, Shah 'Abbas I (15711629), ruler of Iran from 1587 to 1629.

Shah 'Abbas was constantly on the move and travelled around his kingdom at speed in order to attend to matters of government, defend Iran’s borders, hunt and feast and also visit shrines. According to the Italian traveller, Pietro della Valle, the shah rode the fastest horses. His horses were ‘kept in his stables, constantly saddled, for it is not known at what hour or minute they will be needed, nor where they will be going’.

The painting is inscribed with the name ‘Riza’, suggesting that it was painted by Riza-yi 'Abbasi (about 1565–1635), a highly significant figure in Shah 'Abbas’s court, renowned for the finesse of his brushwork and the beauty of his portraiture. Stylistically, however, this painting poses several problems and the authorship of the artist has been questioned. The awkward pose of the groom is uncharacteristic of Riza’s work and the figure appears to have been painted over the water stain that runs along most of the left side of the page. The skill and subtlety with which the horse is painted suggest that Riza may have painted the horse and that another artist added the groom.

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Height: 33.20 cm
Width: 23.90 cm

Museum number

ME 1948,1211.014

Bequest of Sir Bernard Eckstein


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