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73 of 10,402

Iran, Safavid period

Youth with an incense burner

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Object Details

Culture

Iran, Safavid period

Date

ca. 1640

Medium

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Dimensions

7 3/8 × 4 1/2 inches (18.7 × 11.4 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the George and Mary Rockwell Fund

Object
Number

2002.009.001

Persian painting began to shift in the sixteenth century from manuscript illustrations to the predom(…)

Persian painting began to shift in the sixteenth century from manuscript illustrations to the predominance of single-page paintings compiled into albums. The celebrated artist Riza Abbasi (ca. 1565–1635) is considered the great master of this genre. The Johnson’s painting is close in style to the work of his student Muhammad Yusuf al-Husayni. The idealized youthful figure wears a hat that suggests he is male. He is shown holding a burning candle and a censer from which thick smoke rises. A slight breeze blows his flowing garments and long, wispy locks of hair. A delicate background pattern of landscape elements and clouds, all painted in gold, creates an otherworldly setting. All of these features characterize the conventionalized images that were so popular during this period. Such depictions have strong poetic connotations, many related to Sufism (Islamic mysticism), that heightened the spiritual content of poetry and contributed new levels of meaning. In this context, a painting of a youth could be a metaphor for earthly or divine beauty or love. (“Highlights from the Collection: 45 Years at the Johnson,” curated by Stephanie Wiles and presented at the Johnson Museum January 27–July 22, 2018)

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