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"Dancing Dervishes", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Calligrapher:
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
Date:
recto: ca. 1610; verso: ca. 1530–50
Geography:
India
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
H. 15 3/16 in. (38.6 cm) W. 10 3/16 in. (25.9 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
55.121.10.18
Not on view
The "Emperor’s Album," to which this folio belongs, was made for Emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, and is considered one of the world’s great assemblages of Mughal calligraphy and painting.
On the recto, dervishes engage in the sufi ceremony known as the sama, where whirling and dancing is inspired by music and recitations of poetry. In their mystical dance, sufis achieve an ecstatic state, facilitating their connection to God. Here, enlightened and exhausted by their efforts, figures in the lower right and lower left swoon, and are supported by their companions.
Each of the instruments used in the sama has a sacred meaning. The round shape of the large tambourine (daf) refers to the cycle of creation. The flute (nay) is a symbol for the human essence, and breath blown into the flute is akin to the divine light penetrating man’s soul.
The verso contains six diagonal lines of poetry in cartouches, surrounded by a scrolling floral motif.
Signature: 55.121.10.18 verso:
In Persian, in upper left rectangle: The poor 'Ali.

Marking: 55.121.10.18 recto:
Margin number '46' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, to Kevorkian); [ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, from 1929]; [ Kevorkian Foundation, New York, until 1955; gift and sale to MMA]
Grube, Ernst J. "The Early School of Herat and its Impact on Islamic Painting of the Later 15th, the 16th and 17th Centuries." In The Classical Style in Islamic Painting. Venice: Edizioni Oriens, 1968. ill. pl. 100 (b/w).

Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 177, ill. fig. 213 (color), recto.



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