Art

A Nath Yogi with Two White Dogs

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A Nath Yogi with Two White Dogs, c. 1600
Album Folio
Indian
,
17th century
Mughal period
Creation Place: India
Black ink and opaque watercolor on beige paper, with underdrawing in black ink
23.3 x 15 cm (9 3/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.29
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
,
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. Please contact the curatorial department listed above for more information.
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.
Provenance
[Sotheby's 1967, lot 121]. Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1995-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Bibliography
Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., ed. Mary McWilliams 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