Seated Dervish, Ink and watercolor on paper

Seated Dervish

Object Name:
Illustrated single work
late 16th century
Attributed to Iran
Ink and watercolor on paper
H. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm)
W. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935
Accession Number:
Not on view
This figure can be identified as a sufi, on account of his long-sleeved khirqa cloak, ribbed cap, and prayer beads. His crossed arms, kneeling position and lowered gaze all suggest that he is in a state of deep introspection.
In many examples of Persian painting, sleeves serve as a metaphor for the emotional state of the wearer, expressing contemplation, reverence, trepidation, and intoxication. In the case of this seated figure, his sleeves hang limp, crossed one over the other, emphasizing his contemplation.
Sufis frequently spent periods of up to 40 days in isolation in the wilderness. This practice, called khalwa, facilitated distraction-free meditation and prayer. Young Sufis would engage in this habit under the guidance of a shaikh, and more advanced Sufis would sustain this practice independently throughout their lives.
George D. Pratt, New York (by 1933–d. 1935); Vera Amherst Hale Pratt, New York (life interest 1935–45)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 13, 1989–December 31, 1989, no. 28.

Swietochowski, Marie, and Sussan Babaie. Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989. no. 28, pp. 66-67, ill. pl. 28 (b/w).