Lion, ch’i-lin, and dragon set in floral sprays

Historical period(s)
Ottoman period, mid-16th century
Ink, color and gold on paper
H x W: 17.5 x 28.5 cm (6 7/8 x 11 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Album leaf with drawing

dragon, flower, guardian lion, lion, Ottoman period (1307 - 1922), qilin, Turkey
Provenance research underway.

Animals in ferocious combat are a recurring theme in sixteenth-century Ottoman art. In this remarkable drawing, a lion devours a ch'i-lin, a Chinese mythical animal, while a dragon is about to swallow a frightened bird perched helplessly on its tongue.  Although the ch'i-lin and dragon were inspired by Chinese models, the depiction of these animals as fearsome, battling creatures is alien to Chinese art and is more characteristic of Ottoman and Persian pictorial language.

The composition is noteworthy for its use of undulating lines, which lend tremendous energy and vitality to the contorted bodies of the animals and the scrolling floral vine. This particular style of drawing, one of the most impressive achievements of sixteenth-century Ottoman art, also adapted to ceramic and tile designs.

Published References
  • Richard Ettinghausen. Studies in Muslim Iconography I: The Unicorn. vol. 1, no. 3 Washington. pl. 45.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 120-121.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Ottoman Art at the Freer Gallery of Art. no. 4 Istanbul, 1970-1971. p. 192.
  • Turkish Art. Washington and New York. pp. 194-195, fig. 90.
  • Exhibition of Persian Art. Exh. cat. New York. p. 206.
  • Ernst Grube. Miniatures in Istanbul Libraries. Munich. p. 225.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.