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Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Sheet: 45.8 x 34.4 cm (18 1/16 x 13 9/16 in.); Image: 19.5 x 29.5 cm (7 11/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Grace Rainey Rogers Fund 1943.658.b
The Shahnama is an epic poem that traces the fortunes of heroes and kings, of lovers and enemies.
In this intense painting, Bahram Gur plunges his sword into the breast of a dragon. A favorite character from Iran's pre-Islamic history, Bahram Gur (reigned 420–38) was a popular ruler of the Sassanian dynasty and a great hunter. He took the name "Gur," meaning onager (a wild ass), because it was his preferred game, although he also excelled at killing dragons. As evidenced by this illustration's rock formations, tree trunk, and dragon, Iranian painting in the Mongol period borrowed numerous stylistic and spatial elements from Chinese models. With the surging landscape and writhing dragon rendered with equal energy, this is a picture of extraordinary unity and concentration.
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