Moʿin Moṣavver | Individual Drawings and Paintings

Drawing 1647.2

Poet Attacked by Dogs

Location: Tehran, Reżā ʿAbbāsi Museum, no.33-421; formerly in the Mahboubian Collection, New York.
Tinted drawing; (H x W) 22.6 x 14.6 cm. 
Signature: Unsigned and undated; circa 1645-55.

At the top: ṣovara alʿabd al-faqir behzād solṭān. Translation: “Portrait of the poor servant Sultan Behzād”.

At the bottom right: [d]o šanba bist-o-haftom-e šahr-e moẖarram al-ḥarām sana 1028 ǧafrān panāhi(?) ostād behzād ... dar gāh-e reżā-ye moṣavver ʿabbāsi ābrang kard. Translation: “Colored in memory of Master Behzād by the humble Reżā the painter ʿAbbāsi on Monday the 27th of the holy month of Moḥarram in the year 1028/14 January 1619.”

Neither inscription is in the handwriting of Reżā ʿAbbāsi, but the lower inscription appears to be in Moʿin’s hand.

The drawing is an illustration for an episode of Saʿdi’s Golestān, which tells of how a robber chief set his dogs on a poet. The robber chief appears at an open window on the second floor of a crenelated building on the right. The poet, bareheaded and dressed in a cloak, is near the center of the picture picking up stones to throw at the dogs in order to keep them at bay. Two other personage appear at the open doorway to the building. The landscape setting is rather ominous: a rock formation with two craggy, barren trees in the foreground, a larger outcropping with some leafless trees in the background, and scroll clouds at the top.

Mahboubian_1972, no.1005 (ill.).
Robinson, OA_1976, p.57, and fig.11.

This drawing is the same size and an almost exact mirror image of a drawing of the same subject in the Keir Collection (ill. Martin, MMP_1912, fig.39; Kühnel, PM, pl.35; Robinson, Keir_1976, no.III.387; Robinson, OA_1976, fig.10). That drawing has two inscriptions, one of which appears to be in the handwriting of Reżā ʿAbbāsi dating it 30 January 1619, and a second by Šafiʿ ʿAbbāsi, who acknowledges completing it in 1654. The drawing signed by Šafiʿ is a self professed copy of a drawing attributed to Behzād in the Golestān Library in Tehran (ill. BWG_1933, plLXXIVb). It faithfully reproduces many of the fifteenth century elements, but the figures are in the style of Reżā, to whom the Keir drawing has been confidently attributed. However, as Robinson has already noted, the handwriting of the lower inscription on the ex-Mahboubian version, which includes Reżā’s name and the date 14 January 1619, appears very like that of Moʿin Moṣavver. The slightly more squat proportioned figures in the drawing also suggest Moʿin’s style more than Reżā’s. It may be a straightforward instance of Moʿin copying the Keir Collection drawing, then in the hands of Šafiʿ. On the other hand, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Reżā may have begun two drawings of this subject, one about 14 January which he put aside at an early stage, and another about 30 January that he refined nearly to completion, adding an inscription in his own hand. Upon Reżā’s death some years later, this latter drawing passed into the hands of his son Šafi¯, while the earlier, less finished version came into the possession of his foremost student Moʿin. When Šafiʿ added the final touches to his version in 1654, the drawing already had his father’s inscription, so he only acknowledged his own role. Moʿin’s version may have required more extensive work; subsequently, his own style is more apparent.

Photo after Mahboubian_1972, no.1005.

Robert Eng

Last Updated: November 3, 2018 | Originally published: November 3, 2018