The Deccan plateau stretches across India’s south-central region, and from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century it was home to several important and highly cultured Muslim courts. The art produced at these courts subtly blended elements from Persia, West Asia, and sometimes Europe. The resulting visual tradition differs greatly from that in other parts of India, especially the Mughal court in the north. Composite animals were a particular Deccan specialty. Requiring great skill on the part of the painter, the best of these images depict a compelling single animal composed of several other realistic creatures. This superbly painted image features an elephant formed by a profusion of various animals, monsters, and a hunched, bearded man wearing a turban. Two other monsters ride the elephant, and a third plays a pipe to lead the trotting elephant forward. Adding another layer of visual delight and complexity is the multicolored marbled background.
John Seyller, "Deccani elements in early Pahari paintings," in Sultans of the south: arts of India's Deccan Courts, 1323-1687, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011).
"Acquisitions of the Art Museum 1979," Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 39, no. 1/2 (1980): p. 40-63.