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|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 Khamsawas 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.
Learning that the father of his beloved Layla has refused to allow them to marry, Majnun departs for the desert where he is surrounded by sympathetic wild animals. Lions, deer, wolves and foxes serve Majnun, and he is described as being among them like King Solomon .
Majnun is shown seated beneath a flowering tree amidst the animals. He strokes a gazelle whose eyes, as we read repeatedly in the poem, recall the eyes of his beloved Layla.
|Album: The Khamsa by Nizami|
|Source of entry: First Branch of the State Hermitage Museum, 1924|
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