India, Deccan, Bijapur
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; marbleized paper; 4 x 6 3/8 in. (10.2 x 16.2 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1944 (44.154)
A number of drawings from the Deccani kingdoms that incorporate marbling are known. One group of them illustrates nags; among the Sufis, nags are thought to embody the body's gross desires and therefore are shown starved and beaten. This salmon-and-gray horse resembles a carefully contoured piece of faux stone, its details picked out in gold. In contrast, the ascetic rider is realized solely in subtle shades of gray and black. Still, there is an overall resemblance between the angular shapes of the horse and rider, and the parallel lines of the rider's emaciated ribcage and loincloth folds echo the nag's faux stone striations. Thus the drawing melds its two disparately rendered objects into a whole, the phantomlike mount and its palpable rider. In conception this extraordinary ensemble is far from both Rajput and Mughal sensibilities, both of which strive, in quite different ways, to achieve concreteness. Here, the miraculous and the mystical are manifest.