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A mendicant bowing before a holy man, from the Prince Salim Album

A mendicant bowing before a holy man, from the Prince Salim Album

c. 1585; inner border added in Allahabad c. 1602; outer border added probably 1900s

Basavana

(Indian, active c. 1560–1600)

Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper

Page: 32.7 x 21.1 cm (12 7/8 x 8 5/16 in.); Painting: 13.6 x 7.5 cm (5 3/8 x 2 15/16 in.)

Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 2013.296

Fun Fact

The dog stares hungrily at the mendicant’s alms bowl, with the artist’s signature.

Description

This finished painting, made to look like a tinted drawing, depicts two holy men in the wilderness. The Sufi mystic holding a book and a rosary, and wearing a coarse blue garment, receives an ascetic who has laid down his bowl, bag, and staff to touch the mystic’s feet with his brow in a sign of total devotion. The verse at the top is a well-known quotation from a lyrical poem by the celebrated Persian poet Hafiz: I have fallen at his feet, grieving and wailing. Could it be that I might receive a helping hand? The depth of character in the expressions and gestures along with the masterful use of soft brushwork and shading are hallmarks of Akbar’s leading Mughal artist, Basavana. Paintings of this type that Prince Salim selected for his album frequently featured character studies of holy men, and they were given the distinctive border with gold rosettes and lozenges.

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