The copperplate inscription on one of the paintings reads: Prawn Poory a Sunyassy, performing the Penance of Tupussya called vordhbahu (?), he has held up his hands since the year 1752, Traveled all over India and through Tartary to Moscow returning thro. Persia, & now resides near 'Benares', he usually rides on horseback throwing himself with great Agility into the Saddle - 18 August 1820.
Two almost identical portraits are in a private collection and are published in Welch's Room for Wonder. These two faqirs, one Purana Puri, an urdhabahus (with arms upraised) and the other an ascetic on his kantaka-sayya (thorn-couch) are examples of the Hindu holy men, who Welch calls 'among the most picturesque sights in India'(Stuart Cary Welch, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, Virginia 1978, no. 32, p. 80-81).
Those were 'drawn from life' by a Mughal-trained artist for Jonathan Duncan, who served as British Resident at Banaras from 1788 to 1795, later as governor of Bombay and died in 1811. Ours, dated 1820, must therefore be a copy of Duncan's originals. For Jonathan Duncan's amusing account of the two faqirs, see Welch, op. cit., 1978, pp.80-1.