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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

"Diverses Pagodes et Penitences des Faquirs" ("Various Temples and Penances of the Fakirs")
from Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses des Peuples Idolatres (Cérémonies and Religious Customs of the Idolatrous Peoples)
by Jean-Frederic Bernard and Bernard Picart (1728), 1729
Book published by J. F. Bernard, Amsterdam. Copperplate engraving.

Robert J. Del Bontà Collection, E442

This European engraving depicts temples, devotees, and motionless yogis in “fantastic” postures under a magnificently spreading banyan tree. Its artist composed the scene based on a schematic image (right) and a written account. The large head in the shrine at center may represent a goddess.

For more than a century, variations on this image of a fanciful grove were reproduced across Europe, cementing the image in the Western imagination of yoga.