'Saz'-style Drawing of a Dragon amid Foliage

Artist: Shah Quli (Turkish, born Tabriz, Iran, active ca. mid-16th century)

Object Name: Illustrated single work

Date: ca. 1540–50

Geography: Attributed to Turkey, Istanbul

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 6 13/16 in. (17.3 cm)
W. 10 11/16in. (27.2cm)
Mat: H. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
W. 22 in. (55.9 cm)
Frame : H. 17 in. (43.2 cm)
W. 23 in. (58.4 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956

Accession Number: 57.51.26


The tradition of drawings of dragons in foliage, a theme derived from Chinese art, seems to have taken root in Iran under Timurid and Turkman rule during the fifteenth century. The design underwent various stylistic modifications there, and when it reached Turkey in the sixteenth century, a distinctly Ottoman version emerged. It was a popular subject for drawings executed in the so-called saz style, named for the saz qalami or reed pen, in which fantastical representations of vegetation and figures, sometimes combined, as here, were drawn with exuberant virtuosity and a calligraphic line. In the calligraphy in the rectangular panel, the drawing is attributed to Shah Quli, a Persian who became a leading painter at the court of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66).