Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Two Lohans

Object Name:
Illustrated single work
Date:
ca. 1480
Geography:
Attributed to Iran, possibly Tabriz
Medium:
Ink and transparent watercolor on paper
Dimensions:
Page: H. 13 9/16 in. (34.5 cm) W. 9 3/8 in. (23.8 cm) Mat: H. 24 in. (61 cm) W. 19 1/2 in. (49.5 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1968
Accession Number:
68.48
Not on view
Images of ascetic figures such as these, referred to as lohans in Buddhist tradition, appear regularly in Chinese art. This drawing, however, is inscribed in the lower left "Siyah Qalam" (literally, Black Pen), linking this tinted drawing to a series of similarly inscribed pieces preserved in albums in Istanbul's Topkapi Palace Library. While these materials require further investigation, signed and dated pieces in the albums fall mostly within the reign of the Aq Quyunlu ruler Sultan Ya'qub (r. 1478–90), who reigned at Tabriz. Drawings such as this one may have been practice studies, after Chinese originals.
Lohans were revered in China as Buddhist disciples who had attained a high level of enlightenment through their devotion to that faith and its teachings. They were often said to number sixteen or eighteen individuals, but some sources estimate that there were as many as five hundred of them. Their spiritual qualities were manifested in their laughter, and some had distinctive physiognomies or were associated with specific attributes.
In Chinese painting from the ninth century onward, Lohans were depicted both singly and in groups. This tinted drawing unites two of the more popular figures from the tradition, but its edges have probably been cut down, which suggests that they may have been part of a larger gathering of Lohans. With his prominent bare belly and laughing face, the figure on the left appears to be Budai, a popularized representation of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, who was associated in Chinese practice with material prosperity and male children.[1] The figure on the right is accompanied by a tiger and carries a staff made from a gnarled tree root. His association with a tiger hints at a power over cosmic forces, and the knobby staff characterizes him as a rustic sage—both are attributes of the Zen Buddhist ascetic Fenggan. The posture and garments of this figure are mirrored in reverse in a Lohan depicted in a Yuan-era painting now in the National Palace Museum, Taipei.[2]
The somewhat tentative execution of the drawing and the presence of an attribution to Muhammad Siyah Qalam in its lower-left corner suggest that it was made in Iran or Central Asia rather than in China. Its closest analogues in style and content are found among the paintings that form part of Hazine 2153, an album in the Topkapi Palace Library. Some of these bear attributions to Shaikhi Naqqash, the court painter of Sultan Ya‘qub Aq Quyunlu (r. 1478–90), who ruled from the Iranian city of Tabriz.[3] The most direct parallel to the present work shows five figures in a schematic landscape. A man and two women in "Chinese" dress occupy the foreground, while two laughing Lohans, partially hidden by a hill, are seen behind them. The Lohan on the right carries the same distinctive knobby staff held by the figure in the Metropolitan Museum’s painting.[4]
Priscilla P. Soucek in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Footnotes:
1. Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850–1850. Exhibition, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Catalogue by Marsha Weidner and others. Lawrence, Kans., 1994, pp. 36, 140, 392–93, pl. 28 (I would like to thank my colleague, Dr. Huseh-man Shen, for drawing my attention to this publication); Luohan hua/Bian ji zhe Guo li gu gong bo wu yuan bian ji wei yuan hui. [On cover:] Catalogue for Exhibition on Paintings of Lohans. [Table of contents and introduction in English.] Exhibition, The Palace Museum, Taipei. Catalogue by Li Yumin and others. Taipei, 1990, pls. 30, 44–45.
2. Weidner and others 1994, (footnote 1) pp. 196–207; Taipei 1990 (footnote1), pls. 21, 25, upper-right corner.
3. Cağman, Filiz. "On the Contents of the Four Istanbul Albums H. 2152, 2153, 2154, 2160." Islamic Art 1 (1981), pp. 31–36, figs. 1–490 passim; and Cağman, Filiz, and Zeren Tanındı. Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi İslâm Minyatürleri. Tercuman sanat ve kultur yayınları, 1. Istanbul,1979, pp. 30–31, fig. 24.
4. For tinted drawings in Hazine 2153 (fols. 104v, 82v, 8v), see Cağman1981,(footnote 3) figs. 19, 20, 282. For the Lohan figures on Hazine 2153 (fols. 15b, 138a), see ibid., figs. 185, 186.
Inscription: In lower left-hand corner in Persian in nasta‘liq script:
استاد محمد ]. . .[ قلم
The master Muhammad [. . .] Qalam
[ B. H. Breslauer, London, until 1968; sold to MMA]
Washington. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century," April 14, 1989–July 6, 1989, no. 87.

Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century," August 13, 1989–November 5, 1989, no. 87.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 13, 1989–December 31, 1989, no. 2.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600," January 22, 2005–April 15, 2005, no. 176.

London. British Museum. "Ming: Courts and Contacts 1400–1450," September 18, 2014–January 4, 2015.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mohammedan Manuscripts." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, old series, vol. 9 (1914). ill. pp. 105-106.

Grube, Ernst J. "Reports of the Departments: Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 27, no. 2 (1968). pp. 103-106, ill. p. 106 (b/w).

Gray, Basil. "A Timurid Copy of a Chinese Picture." In Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Richard Ettinghausen. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. pp. 35-38, ill. fig. 1 (b/w).

Lentz, Thomas W., and Glenn D. Lowry. "Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century." In Timur and the Princely Vision. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989. no. 87, pp. 187, 347, ill. p. 187 (b/w).

Swietochowski, Marie, and Sussan Babaie. Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989. no. 2, pp. 14-15, ill. pl. 2 (b/w).

Roxburgh, David J. "Persian Drawings, ca. 1400–1450: Materials and Creative Procedures." Muqarnas vol. 19 (2002). pp. 52, 54, ill. fig. 12 (b/w).

Roxburgh, David J., ed. Turks: Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600. London, New York: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005. no. 176, pp. 226-227, ill. fig. 176 (color).

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. 119, p. 178, ill. p. 178 (color).



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