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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.6
Title
Recumbent Lioness
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
early to mid-16th century
Places
Creation Place: South Asia, India
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Iranian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165475
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions
14.5 x 20.8 cm (5 11/16 x 8 3/16 in.)
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1998-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.6
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
The subject of the recumbent lioness is known from a corpus of drawings and paintings executed during the late Timurid and Safavid periods. With slight variations, these artworks depict the lioness in a pose of relaxation, tethered by a chain attached to a belled collar. The drawings share a technique that uses stippling or short lines (without hatching) to convey the contours and mass of the lioness as well as the texture of her coat. In this example, fine lines and dots of reddish brown, black, and white have been applied over the ivory-colored paper. Around the muzzle, ear tips, belly, and rump, white opaque watercolor is introduced, contrasting with the lines and dots and lending the drawing greater depth. The lioness’s eyes, collar, and chain are accented with gold.
Now mounted on a sheet of modern paper, the drawing lacks any trace of a signature or attribution, but it can be linked through a sequence of closely related works to a prototype originated by the renowned artist Kamal al-Din Bihzad (d. 1535–36). Two extant examples carry credible attributions to Bizhad, and more are either ascribed to him or signed by other artists, such as Murad or Shah Muhammad Isfahani. Judging by the number of imitative responses, the recumbent lioness was one of Bihzad’s most appreciated artworks, whose resonance endured into the seventeenth century.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
118

Recumbent Lioness
Iran, Safavid period, early to mid-16th century
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Folio: 14.5 × 20.8 cm (5 11/16 × 8 3/16 in.)
2002.50.6

Appreciation for works of art that can be characterized as “single-page compositions” intensified during the reign in Iran of the Safavid dynasty (1501–1722).[1] Collectors assembled paintings, drawings, and specimens of calligraphy and mounted them onto the folios of albums (muraqqaʿ). In some instances, these items had originally been created for manuscripts; in other cases, they had been made as models or as autonomous works of art.

The subject of the recumbent lioness is known from a corpus of drawings and paintings executed during the late Timurid and Safavid periods. With slight variations, these artworks depict the lioness in a pose of relaxation, tethered by a chain attached to a belled collar.[2] The drawings share a technique that uses stippling or short lines (without hatching) to convey the contours and mass of the lioness as well as the texture of her coat. In this example, fine lines and dots of reddish brown, black, and white have been applied over the ivory-colored paper. Around the muzzle, ear tips, belly, and rump, white opaque watercolor is introduced, contrasting with the lines and dots and lending the drawing greater depth. The lioness’s eyes, collar, and chain are accented with gold.

Now mounted on a sheet of modern paper, the drawing lacks any trace of a signature or attribution, but it can be linked through a sequence of closely related works to a prototype originated by the renowned artist Kamal al-Din
Bihzad (d. 1535–36). Two extant examples carry credible attributions to Bizhad, and more are either ascribed to him or signed by other artists, such as Murad or Shah Muhammad Isfahani.[3] Judging by the number of imitative responses, the recumbent lioness was one of Bihzad’s most appreciated artworks, whose resonance endured into the seventeenth century.[4]

David J. Roxburgh

[1] See, in this volume, David Roxburgh’s essay “Beyond Books: The Art and Practice of the Single-Page
Drawing in Safavid Iran,” 135–45.
[2] See Martin 1912, vol. 2, pl. 86; Roxburgh 2000, 131–36 and accompanying notes
[3] One example bearing an attribution to Bihzad is in an album assembled by Dust Muhammad in 1544–45 for Safavid prince Bahram Mirza: see Roxburgh 2000, 134, fig. 9; the other is reproduced in Martin 1912, vol. 2, pl. 86. For the other examples, see Roxburgh 2000, 131–36.
[4] See B. W. Robinson 1992, 286, cat. 263.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 136, ill.; p. 252, cat. 118, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu