Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Youth And Dervish In Conversation
Safavid, circa 1590 CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Page 32.2 x 20.2 cm; Image 19.9 x 12.7 cm
A young man dressed in fine robes and a gold-edged turban gazes at a safina, the small oblong album in his hands. His seat is the trunk of a blossoming tree, whose curving branches gently surround him. The tripartite division of the landscape into a gilded sky full of scrolling clouds, a lilac mountain background, and a flower-filled dark grassy ground is typical of the Khurasan style at the end of the sixteenth century. Opposite the youth is a fresh faced young dervish with a shaven head, accessorised by a white leopard skin, a kashkul or begging bowl, a purse, and a knife. He holds out something, perhaps a cup, which has been effaced. Some dervish groups may have incited trouble, but late sixteenth-century Persian sources also laud the personal qualities of dervishes, calling them self-effacing, noble-minded, and kindly. In this vein, Sheila Canby has proposed that the young dervish here may not represent an actual dervish but a metaphor for the admired ideals of a dervish. Although this painting is currently mounted on an album page, its composition - that of a youth in conversation with a dervish - was seen often on colophon pages of manuscripts.
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