Miniatures

Majnun Watching thr Battle of the Tribes

Majnun Watching thr Battle of the Tribes
(click image to zoom-in)
Miniatures, Gouache, 23.7x13.7 cm
Origin: Iran, 1431-1431, Timurid Dynasty

In terms of colouring this is one of the most beautiful of the 13 miniatures illustrating the poem Layla and Majnun in the Hermitage's famous Persian manuscript of the Khamsa, an anthology of five poems by the 12th-century poet Nizami, who lived on the territory of present-day Azerbaijan. In 1431 this manuscript of the Khamsa was copied out in Herat by the calligrapher Mahmud for Sultan Shahrukh , son of the legendary Tamerlaine .

The tale of this couple who loved each other from childhood, the beautiful Layla and the passionate Majnun, appeared in Arabia and then spread throughout the Moslem East. Nizami was the author of the first literary version of this legend.

Here we see the episode in which an Arab soldier learned of the sufferings of Majnun, who had been refused permission to marry his beloved Layla, and decided to help the young man by doing battle against the leaders of Layla's tribe. The soldiers are set against a deserted landscape, but mounted on camels - not on horses as stated in the poem. To the right are numerous soldiers, with the Arab soldier wearing a green robe and with spear raised in the foreground. To the left are three warriors from Layla's tribe, their backs to their enemies, desperately trying to escape, protecting themselves with their round shields. Their figures overlap onto the rest of the page, perhaps to emphasize that they were being repelled by Majnun's forces.

In the top right corner of the miniature, observing the battle, is the suffering Majnun himself, arms crossed over his breast. This detail contradicts Nizami's text, according to which he too went into battle.

Album: The Khamsa by Nizami
Personage: Majnun
Source of entry: First Branch of the State Hermitage Museum, 1924
School: Herat
Theme: Literature

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