A Nath Yogi With Two White Dogs
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.29
People
Unknown Artist
Title
A Nath Yogi with Two White Dogs
Classification
Albums
Work Type
album folio
Date
c. 1600
Places
Creation Place: South Asia, India
Period
Mughal period
Culture
Indian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Black ink and opaque watercolor on beige paper, with underdrawing in black ink
Dimensions
23.3 x 15 cm (9 3/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Provenance
[Sotheby's 1967, lot 121]. Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1995-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.29
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
The man represented here has attributes of a Nath yogi. As is customary for members of this group, he wears large, round earrings, a black sacred thread (janeo) with a small horn pendant, and a coral-or salmon-colored robe. His face and hands are covered with ashes, and he possesses a begging bowl and a crutch (acal) for supporting his chin or arm during meditation. Accompanied by two white dogs, he is shown sitting in an outdoor landscape, hugging his legs and looking at one of the animals. The dogs frolic around him, their playfulness enlivening the otherwise meditative composition.
The painting is executed with extremely delicate brushwork (best seen under magnification) that conveys the artist’s visualsensitivity: textures and facial features are rendered with fine lines and subtle hues, and minute details are articulated with great precision.
This page was part of a now-dispersed album of painting and calligraphy. Known as the Salim Album, it was made for Prince Salim, the future Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27), at a time when he was in rebellion against his father, Akbar (r. 1556–1605). Several paintings from the album illustrate non-Islamic religious subjects that were of interest to both Akbar and Jahangir; some also represent known figures at the Mughal court. The particular features of this yogi—his round face, full cheeks, small nose, thin lips, and slanted eyes—may be seen as an attempt to render him in a personalized manner even if the artist was not intending to portray a specific individual.
The painting is bordered above and below by couplets of Persian poetry that refer to the poet-lover who, separated from his beloved, has become an ascetic. A similarly composed page depicting a Nath yogi with a single dog has also been identified as having belonged to the Salim Album. Considering their related subject matter, composition, setting, and poetic inscriptions, one can surmise that the two pages faced each other in the album.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, written 2013
128

A Nath Yogi with Two White Dogs
Folio from the Salim Album
India, Mughal period, c. 1600
Black ink and opaque watercolor on beige paper, with underdrawing in black ink
Folio: 23.3 × 15 cm (9 3/16 × 5 7/8 in.)
2002.50.29

Published: Sotheby’s 1967, lot 121.

The man represented here has attributes of a Nath yogi.[1] As is customary for members of this group, he wears large, round earrings,[2] a black sacred thread (janeo) with a small horn pendant, and a coral-or salmon-colored robe. His face and hands are covered with ashes, and he possesses a begging bowl and a crutch (acal) for supporting his chin or arm during meditation.[3] Accompanied by two white dogs, he is shown sitting in an outdoor landscape, hugging his legs and looking at one of the animals. The dogs frolic around him, their playfulness enlivening the otherwise meditative composition. The painting is executed with extremely delicate brushwork (best seen under magnification) that conveys the artist’s visual sensitivity: textures and facial features are rendered with fine lines and subtle hues, and minute details are articulated with great precision.

This page was part of a now-dispersed album of painting and calligraphy. Known as the Salim Album, it was made for Prince Salim, the future Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27), at a time when he was in rebellion against his father, Akbar (r. 1556–1605).[4] Several paintings from the album illustrate non-Islamic religious subjects that were of interest to both Akbar and Jahangir;[5] some also represent known figures at the Mughal court.[6] The particular features of this yogi—his round face, full cheeks, small nose, thin lips, and slanted eyes—may be seen as an attempt to render him in a personalized manner even if the artist was not intending to portray a specific individual. The painting is bordered above and below by couplets of Persian poetry that refer to the poet-lover who, separated from his beloved, has become an ascetic.[7] A similarly composed page depicting a Nath yogi with a single dog has also been identified as having belonged to the Salim Album.8 Considering their related subject matter, composition, setting, and poetic inscriptions, one can surmise that the two pages faced each other in the album.[9]

Mika M. Natif

[1] The order of yogis is called Nath Sampradaya, or sometimes Kanphata (split-eared) or Gorakhnath: see White 1996, 7–9.
[2] Such earrings identify members of the Nath order. During the initiation ceremony, the master, or guru, cuts the initiate’s earlobes; the large earrings are inserted later. Briggs 1973, 1–2, 6–7.
[3] Ibid., 11–12.
[4] During this period Prince Salim established himself at Allahabad: see Wright 2008, 55, 64, 270. Two other paintings from this album are in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum: Woman Applying Kohl, 2009.202.251, and Muslim Nobleman in White, 2009.202.254.
[5] Wright 2008, 58–59.
[6] Ibid.
[7] See, in this catalogue, Sunil Sharma’s essay, “The Sati and the Yogi: Safavid and Mughal Imperial Self-Representation in Two Album Pages,” 147–55.
[8] Ibid., fig 5. This album page is now housed in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (CBL In 44.3): see Wright 2008, cat. 29, 270–71. Linda Leach (in Chester Beatty Library and Leach 1995, 1:303–4) notes the existence of another yogi painting from the same album, which is the one catalogued here (cat. 128). See also Wright 2008, 55, 64, and 456, no. 9.
[9] Elaine Wright, however, entertains the possibility that the Salim Album was never bound but consisted of separate folios: Wright 2008, 58.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 146-147, ill.; pp. 152-153, ill.; p. 260, cat. 128, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

Related Media
Persian Poem Reading: A Nath Yogi with Two White Dogs
Verification Level

2 - Adequate. Object is adequately described but information may not be vetted