Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Sea Serpent (al-Tannin)
(not assigned)
15th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Aq Qoyunlu period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
31.8 x 20.3 cm (12 1/2 x 8 in.)
Possibly Sir Bernard Eckstein, his sale; [Sotheby's, London, 7 February 1949, lot 14]. [Sotheby's, London, 11 April 1961], sold; to Edwin Binney, 3rd, 1961, bequest; to Harvard Art Museums.

Stored at the San Diego Museum of Art from some time before 1986 until 1991, then at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1991-2011.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard Art Museums
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Barely contained within a thinly-painted gold border is a large serpentine figure. Its coiling, sinuous, gray body is covered in small and large circular scales, and its back features a gold spine that resembles flickering flames. It has a moon-shaped face with large red eyes. The face is surrounded by six dragon-like heads with long, thin, curving necks. These heads have large red eyes, long snouts, and gaping mouths with protruding red tongues. The two heads that encircle the moon face rest on top of it with their snouts touching each other. The image is framed by paper borders in dark and light blue, and is mounted into an album page that is tan in color with silver flecks. Immediately to the right of the serpent are traces of Arabic writing in black ink and naskh script. The text runs vertically in the present configuration, implying that the serpent would have been oriented horizontally in its original context within a manuscript.

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at