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Lion and Dragon in Combat

Painting by Muhammad Baqir (active 1750s–60s)

Object Name:
Illustrated single work
Date:
second half 18th century
Geography:
Iran
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Ink and watercolor on paper
Dimensions:
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)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1974
Accession Number:
1974.20
  • Description

    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.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    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.

  • Provenance

    [ Adrienne Minassian, New York, until 1974; sold to MMA]

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
452514:3

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