Ascetics with dogs in landscape

Accession Number

Ascetics with dogs in landscape

Artist Unknown, Mughal Workshop, Uttar Pradesh

Object Creation Date
17th century

Medium & Support
black and red opaque watercolor and gold on paper

8 3/4 in x 13 1/2 in (22.22 cm x 34.29 cm);19 5/16 in x 14 5/16 in (49.05 cm x 36.35 cm);13 1/16 in x 8 1/4 in (33.18 cm x 20.96 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase, Acquisition Fund

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Though Mughal court artists are best known for painting jewel-like miniatures in opaque watercolor, they also produced fine monochromatic paintings that integrated aspects of Chinese painting and European grisaille. The technique used in this picture of three ascetics is called nim qalam (half-pen) in Persian, which refers to the omission of opaque colors in favor of pure line drawing with translucent washes. In keeping with traditions of Chinese landscape painting, tree trunks are rendered with carefully modulated contour lines and stippled shading. Other aspects, such as the ascetics’ draped garments, imitate conventions of European modeling. The result of these techniques is an elegant portrayal of the holy men, which combines faithful observation of nature with an ethereal aura. Despite the attention to their anatomy and gestures, the ascetics appear somewhat unearthly, as if they exist halfway between the material and spiritual realms.
(Label for UMMA South and Southeast Asia Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
This compelling drawing depicts a group of Kanpats, a very specific type of ascetic or yogi. Worshippers of Shiva, the Kanpats wore large earrings made of bone and kept dogs as pets. Working with brush and ink on paper, the artist has skillfully combined faithful observation of nature with a bold stylization of forms, a trait that characterizes the best of Mughal painting and drawing.
The small notations at the bottom give no information about the subject or artist, and may have concerned the placement of the painting within an album. It was frequently the case that Mughal paintings were collected and placed in albums, either at the time they were made or by later owners.

Physical Description
The drawing is mounted on an album page of a yellowish color flecked with gold. There is a narrow frame in a slighter lighter tone outlined with gold and red lines. The main figure sits facing the viewer and is in a long robe. An emaciated, nearly nude figure faces him squatting with his hand on one knee. Another ascetic stands and offers obeisance to the master. One dog rolls around in front of him and another on a leash walks behind him. There is a clump of bushes to the lower left and a tree to the upper left tops a diagonal leading down to the right with a large group of twisted trees.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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dogs (devices for wood)
figures in landscape
landscapes (environments)

& Author Notes

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