Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Lion and Dragon in Combat

Painting by Muhammad Baqir (Iranian, active 1735–90)
Object Name:
Illustrated single work
second half 18th century
Made in Iran
Ink and watercolor on paper
H. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm) W. 9 in. (22.9 cm) Page: H. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm) W. 12 1/8 in. (30.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1974
Accession Number:
Not on view
A significant number of works by Muhammad Baqir survive, including several borders and single-page paintings, dated 1764, that come from a dispersed album. Some of these are based on European prototypes while others depict flowers, reflecting the vogue for bird-and-flower paintings that developed in the eighteenth century and was especially popular in nineteenth-century Iran.
While the subject of dragons in combat with real or imaginary animals has a long history in Persian painting, originating with the Mongols in the thirteenth century, the more immediate inspiration for this composition is most likely in the work of the seventeenth-century Safavid artist Mu'in Musavvir. His numerous drawings of lions depict the beasts with large, expressive eyes similar to those of Muhammad Baquir's creature. What differentiates the eighteenth-century drawing from its Safavid forebears is the use of ink wash, a technique borrowed from European sources, to define the musculature of both lion and dragon. Finally, the iconography of this drawing is novel since customarily both dragons and lions are shown defeating a weaker foe. Here, the two are face to face, with the lion drawing first blood but the outcome of their struggle forever uncertain.
Signature: Signed by Muhammad Baqir

Inscription: Signature in Persian in nasta‘liq script at lower right:
دربلده ساری مشق شد کمینه محمد باقر
In the town of Sari, this was drawn by the humble Muhammad Baqir.
[ Adrienne Minassian, New York, until 1974; sold to MMA]
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 81.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 13, 1989–December 31, 1989, no. 19.

Toronto. Aga Khan Museum. "In Search of the Artist," September 1, 2014–November 16, 2014, no catalogue.

Swietochowski, Marie, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Notable Acquisitions 1965–1975 (1975). p. 135, ill. (b/w).

"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 81, pp. 200-201, ill. p. 201 (b/w).

Swietochowski, Marie, and Sussan Babaie. Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989. no. 19, pp. 48-49, ill. pl. 19 (b/w).

Yarshater, Ehsan, ed. Encyclopaedia Iranica vol. 7 (1996). p. 546, ill. pl. XLIII (b/w).

Bernus-Taylor, Marthe. "Musee du Louvre 23 avril–23 juillet 2001." In L'Etrange et le Merveilleux en Terres d'Islam. Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2001.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 192, pp. 275-276, ill. p. 275 (color).

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