Single Leaf of Plowing and Selling Produce by Reza Abbasi

This drawing, Walters manuscript leaf W.749, was executed in Safavid Iran, most probably in the late 10th century AH/AD 16th, in Qazvin or Isfahan. Above, a farmer plows; below, a seated young man watches a produce seller weigh his purchase. On the rocks in the center foreground is inscribed the name of one of the most famous painters in Iran in the 11th century AH/AD 17th, Riza ‘Abbasi (active 1001-1044 AH/AD 1591-1592 to 1634). As the handwriting does not match that of the artist, an admirer of Riza’s work seems to have attributed the drawing to him. The execution and the bucolic subject matter of this drawing relate closely to the oeuvre of the Persian artist Muhammadi Haravi (active late 10th century AH/AD 16th), who worked in Qazvin. It is possible that this composition was conceived as a manuscript page.

Artist Reza Abbasi
Title Single Leaf of Plowing and Selling Produce
Date late 10th century AH/AD 16th century-early 11th century AH/AD 17th century (Safavid period (1501-1722))
Medium ink and pigments on paper
Dimensions Folio Height: 28.5 cm (11.2 in). Width: 17.5 cm (6.9 in). ; Miniature Height: 14.2 cm (5.6 in). Width: 8.7 cm (3.4 in).
Current location
Walters Art Museum

Reza Abbasi
1565 – 1635

Reza Abbasi was the leading Persian miniaturist of the Isfahan School during the later Safavid period, spending most of his career working for Shah Abbas I He is considered to be the last great master of the Persian miniature, best known for his single miniatures for muraqqa or albums, especially single figures of beautiful youths

Riza was possibly born in Kashan, as Āqā Riżā Kāshānī is one of the versions of his name; it has also been suggested that he was born in Mashad, where his father, the miniature artist Ali Asghar, is recorded as having worked in the atelier of the governor, Prince Ibrahim Mirza After Ibrahim’s murder, Ali Asghar joined Shah Ismail II’s workshop in the capital Qasvin Riza probably received his training from his father and joined the workshop of Shah Abbas I at a young age By this date, the number of royal commissions for illustrated books had diminished, and had been replaced by album miniatures in terms of employment given to the artists of the royal workshop

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Unlike most earlier Persian artists, he typically signed his work, often giving dates and other details as well, though there are many pieces with signatures that scholars now reject He may have worked on the ambitious, but incomplete Shahnameh, now in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin A much later copy of the work, from 1628, at the end of Abbas’ reign and rendered in a very different style, may also be his It is now in the British Library His first dated drawing is from 1601, in the Topkapi Palace A book miniature of 1601-2 in the National Library of Russia has been attributed to him; the only other miniature in the book is probably by his father He is generally attributed with the 19 miniatures in a Khusraw and Shirin of 1631-32, although their quality has been criticised

His speciality, however, was the single miniature for the albums or muraqqas of private collectors, typically showing one or two figures with a lightly drawn garden background, sometimes in gold, in the style formerly used for border paintings, with individual plants dotted about on a plain background These vary between pure pen drawings and fully painted subjects with colour throughout, with several intermediate varieties The most typical have at least some colour in the figures, though not in the background; later works tend to have less colour His, or his buyers’, favourite subjects were idealized figures of stylishly dressed and beautiful young men.