Moʿin Moṣavver | Individual Drawings and Paintings

Drawing 1638.3

Shah ʿAbbās I (probably) and a Cup-bearer

Location: Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art, no. F1953.27; Purchased Charles Lang Freer Endowment.
Formerly in the Sarre Collection, Berlin.
Pen and ink drawing on paper with color: (H x W) 12.4 x 9.1 cm.
Signature: Fallacious "signature" of Reżā ʿAbbāsi and dated 1[0]48/1638.

Upper left: hu! dar ruz-e čahār šanba hevdaḥom-e šahr-e ṣafar ḥatm bālḥer va alẓafar sana 1[0]48 in majles ... ba etmām rasid raqam-e kamina Reżā ʿAbbāsi.
Translation: “God! This group was completed on Wednesday the seventeenth of the month of Ṣafar in the year 1[0]48 / 30 June 1638. Drawn by the most humble Reżā ʿAbbāsi”.

Two figures are depicted. Kneeling at the right is the main personage, alternately identified as Shah ʿAbbās I, or his successor Shah Ṣafi I. He is portrayed in his thirties, with a broad black mustache, turban, and a long robe with long sleeves and an open collar. The shah looks toward the left, one hand on his knee, the other slightly elevated to receive a dish from a female servant, who bends to pour drink from a long-necked flacon. She is simply clothed: a kerchief and a plain dress, with long sleeves, a knotted sash, and slippers. A cloth is spread on the ground between the two figures with some fruit(?), two long-necked bottles, a jug, and a pitcher. A small sapling is in the background.

Sarre-Mittwoch, ZRA_1914, pl.15.
Ettinghausen, TB, p.406, no.26 (not ill.).
Stchoukine, SA_1964, pp.63 and 125 (not ill.).
Baḵtiyār, RA_1971, pl.p.5 top.

In 1638 Reżā ʿAbbāsi had already been dead for three years; from that perspective, the “signature” is unlikely to be authentic. The drawing style is that of Moʿin, and not that of Reżā. The inscription also appears to be closer to Moʿin's jagged hand than Reżā's more fluid script. There are two possible explanations for the inclusion of Reżā's "signature", both of which presupposes that the drawing and inscription are both attributable to Moʿin. The first scenario is that Moʿin, being a relatively obscure artist at the time, wished to add value to his drawing by adding the "signature" of his illustrious teacher, rather than, or in addition to, his own. However, this scenario does not seem to fit well with the character of Moʿin, who continued to copy Reżā's work many times during his long career, even after he had achieved fame, but more often than not he fully divulged that it was a copy of an earlier Reżā work. This second scenario seems even more likely when we compare this drawing with 1638.4, which is dated only one day later. Although 1638.4 is unsigned, the inscription appears to be in Moʿin’s hand. The shah is portrayed identically in both drawings, and when compared to contemporary renderings, appears to be Shah ʿAbbās I, who died in 1629, moreso than Shah Ṣafi that is portrayed. These two drawings are related, and indeed if it is actually Shah ʿAbbās that is represented, then more than likely it was not an event that Moʿin had personally witnessed, but rather events that he copied from a prior Reżā work. As to the fallacious Reżā "signature", this is not an isolated instance -- cf. 1639.1, 1640.2, 1642.3, and 1650.1.

Photo courtesy of The Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, © The Freer Gallery of Art

Robert Eng
Last Updated: February 18, 2018 | Originally published: February 18, 2018