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A holy man in the forest (Shiva as Lord of the Animals)

A holy man in the forest (Shiva as Lord of the Animals), 1981, by Jogmaya Devi (Indian). Ink and colors on paper. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Museum purchase, 1999.39.39. © Jogmaya Devi. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

A holy man in the forest (Shiva as Lord of the Animals), 1981, by Jogmaya Devi (Indian). Ink and colors on paper. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Museum purchase, 1999.39.39. © Jogmaya Devi. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

The lion, a subject favored by Jogmaya Devi, appears at upper left as a comical beast, grinning widely and framed by a circular, halo-like mane. The artist uses the "fill" style specific to her caste, where broad dark linework is filled in with areas of bright, lively color. The central subject of her picture is an ascetic holy man, seated in a posture of meditation and holding a string of prayer beads in each hand. The horizontal band across his forehead identifies him as a devotee of the deity Shiva. Ascetics, like Shiva, are often depicted with long, stringy, matted locks, shown here by a colorful arc of snaky forms and fine lines surrounding the holy man's head.

A sage surrounded by four animals recalls a form of Shiva as Lord of the Animals. The image may be read doubly as an ascetic meditating in the forest, and as the god Shiva. Repeated patterns, dots, and floral motifs lend a cheerful quality reminiscent of ritual wall painting.