This painting of a dervish reflects the Mughal interest in holy men. Prince Dara-Shikoh, Shah Jahan's eldest son, became a serious student of these spiritual beliefs and this painting was most likely executed under his patronage. A dervish wearing a brown animal fur covering, earrings, bangles, an anklet leads a dark brown bear by a leash. The red earing and iron bangles are customary accessories worn by dervishes of the Qalandar and Haydari orders. His forearms and chest are dotted with markings, caused by self-inflicted burns. These marks, known as dagh (hot) in Persian, demonstrate faithfulness and love for God. The scene suggests an allegory familiar to Sufis in which the higher self (here perhaps symbolized by the dervish) struggles to overcome his baser instincts (the bear). His burns, ragged garb, fasting, and wandering give him strength in this struggle. The Shah Jahan Album, also known as the Emperor's Album, features fifty illustrated and calligraphic folios, forty-one of which belong to the Metropolitan Museum, and nine of which reside in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. In lower part of second border around the portrait, Shah Jahan's handwriting identifies this as "Work of Govardhan."
Signature: 188.8.131.52 verso: In Persian, in lower left corner triangle: Fakir 'Ali al-katib.
Inscription: 184.108.40.206 recto: In Persian, in lower part of second border around portrait (Shah Jahan's hand): Work of Govardhan.
Marking: 220.127.116.11 recto: Margin number '11' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, no. 130, to Kevorkian); [ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, from 1929]; [ Kevorkian Foundation, New York, until 1955; gift and sale to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, nos. 75 and 76.
Sotheby's: Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1929. no. 141.
Welch, Stuart Cary, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Wheeler M. Thackston. The Emperors' Album: Images of Mughal India. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. nos. 75, 76, pp. 234-23, 238, ill., verso pl. 75 (b/w); recto pl. 76 (color).
Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 202, ill. fig. 238 (b/w), recto.