Persian Miniature Painting: Dragon & Horseman
Persian Miniature Painting: Dragon & Horseman – Sadiqi Beg (?)
An unarmed horseman attacked by a Dragon, defending himself with his bare fists as the beast entwines itself about him and the horse, Tabriz or Qazvin, c.1540-50
Ink drawing on paper, seal impression at lower left corner with the name MansurAbd MuzaffarAli (?), mounted on an 18th/19th century Indian album page with undecorated borders and descriptive legend in nagari at top (from the same album as lot 238), 165 by 109mm, page 351 by 240 mm.
This is one of the few drawings attributable to the master artists of Shah Tahmasp’s atelier at Tabriz.
On grounds of style it may be assigned to Aqa Mirak, the third painter to take charge of the production of Shah Tahmasp’s great Shahnama manuscript after Sultan Muhammad and Mir Musavir. A full account of Aqa Mirak is given by M.B.Dickson and S.C.Welch, The Houghton Shahnameh, Cambridge, 1981, I, 95-117. He came from an Isfahan family of Sayyid descent, and according to Sam Mirza, writing circa 1550, was in close attendance upon the Shah and served as the guiding spirit for the other artists. He is thought to have moved with the court to Qazvin in 1548 and to have worked for Prince Ibrahim at Mashhad after 1556. Although no signed works of his are known, attributions have been made by Welch on the basis of his ascribed miniatures in Shah Tahmasp’s Khamsa now in the British Library.
The subject of the lone horseman encountering a dragon was popular with Persian draughtsmen. A slightly later rendering attributed to Sadiqi is in the Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection.
I have questions about the suggestion of an attribution to Aqa Mirak for this piece. I can certainly see similarities to Aqa Mirak but there are some key differences.
Take the top knot of the turban. It has a certain lacey flourish that I expect in the late 16th century or later, not in the mid 16th. It is a little disconcerting because the Taj is drawn in the style of Aqa Mirak in the 1530s so I suspect the artist had access to some of Aqa Mirak’s work.
The Dragon reminded more of the work of Sadiqi Beg. It is a nicely drawn dragon and in the style of Sadiqi Beg. Please not the similarities in the horn, the ear, the snout, the ringlets, the bend in the neck, etc…
Obviously I compared this to Plate 102 in Art of the Persian Court” 4. but that dragon has stronger lines and more of that spirit of girift-o gir that we see in great dragons.
As we can see on the right a dragon by Aqa Mirak is a thing of great beauty. The dragon on the left however is a nice Dragon but not what I expect from the master of girift-o gir
Chinese porcelain was highly prized in Safavid Persia and Mughal India. Here we can see the type of art from which the Persians borrowed the design.
I would like to suggest that this picture should be attributed to Sadiqi Beg in the late 16th or early 17th century. The stamp in the lower left hand corner is thought to be Muzaffar Ali’s signature stamp and that this piece then should be attributed to Muzzafar Ali circa 1540. I just do not believe it. That date seems too early by at least 50 years