Layli visits Majnun in the Grove
One of the best models for mystical love in the Islamic world is the tragic hero Majnun, whose love for Layli ultimately drove him to insanity and exile. Although the story’s roots lie in an Arabic tale, it is the subject of one of the five narrative poems of the Khamsa (Quintet), by the Persian poet Nizami of Ganja (1141–1209), and from Iran it spread to India. Illustrations of Majnun in the wilderness are common in eastern Islamic manuscripts. Although this scene lacks the refinement of court-commissioned manuscripts, it is a testament to the popularity of the story. Here Majnun, in a state of self-annihilation—bearded, with matted hair, emaciated, and dressed in only a loincloth—is united with his beloved after years of separation. While certain elements such as the animals and tree suggest Mughal conventions, Layli’s figure, pose, and dress suggest that parts of the scene were repainted at a later date.
Ink and opaque watercolor on paper
sheet: 9 3/8 x 6 in. (23.8 x 15.2 cm)
image: 6 3/4 x 4 3/4 in. (71.1 x 12.1 cm) (show scale)
Persian inscriptions describe the scene from the Khamsa of Nizami; the text corresponds to the iconography of this scene. (M. Ekhtiar)
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Indian. Layli visits Majnun in the Grove, 17th century. Ink and opaque watercolor on paper, sheet: 9 3/8 x 6 in. (23.8 x 15.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, X635.1 (Photo: , X635.1_PS2.jpg)
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