Elephant Headed Monster Design

Possible Origin of the Elephant Headed Monster Design

Possible Origin of the Elephant Headed Monster Design
When we see a fantastic animal such as the monster from the Ames Mughal Hunting Carpet. There is a tendency to look into our own realm of experiences for answers. For answers a more appropriate place to look for answers is the art and artists of the Islamic world. When we do that then we see what appears to be a unique creature is actually on of a line of related motifs.
Possible Origin of the  Elephant Headed Monster Design.
Slaying of an Elephant Headed Creature.

Mughal India late sixteenth century. The Al-Sabah Collection

Here we see a creature with the body of a lion and the head of an elephant. the creature has the feathery streamers that signify that it is a mystical creature. The coloring of the rocks as well as the small living bush and the small dead bush in the foreground rocks tells me that if this is not by Abd as Samad it is certainly in his style.

It has been suggested that the elephant headed monster is "straight out of Hindu Mythology". While the Hindu religion does have an elephant headed man (god) I can find no trace of any other creature with an elephant head besides elephants. before assign the derivation of this design to the Hindus it seems to be more appropriate to look to the books the artists were illustrating. In the Shahnama I find what I feel is a more likely predecessor to the Ames monster.
Possible Origin of the  Elephant Headed Monster Design.
Bahram Conquers The Monster
Tabriz first half fourteenth century.

The great epic poem of Persian literature called the Shahnama tells of a lion monster called Kappi who terrorizes the country side until the hero Bahram slays the beast.

While we may never know for sure it would seem more likely that the monster in the Ames rug is Kappi the monster from the Shahnama drawn in a rather fanciful manner.

Atil, Esin et al. Islamic Art, Treasures from Kuwait. Washington: The Al-Sabah Collection, 1990 plate 80.

Bennett, Ian et al. Rugs & Carpets of the World. Edison: Wellfleet Press, 1977. p. 127.

This one is from a book in a language that I do not recognize. Fortunately the captions of the plates are in three languages including one I speak. The style is similar but superior to the Shahnama of Firdawsi which a French art dealer named Demotte cut up. On that basis I would attribute this miniature to Tabriz first half fourteenth century. This illustration is from: Kerimov Kerim. Azerbaijan Miniature, (baKbI: NLLIbIT, (?) 1980) plate 9. For comparison to understand my attribution please see: Gray, Basil. Persian Painting. New York: 1961, Skira, Rizzoli, 1977 p. 28 to 32 and accompanying plates.