Layla and Majnun Faint on Meeting

Layla and Majnun Faint on Meeting
(click image to zoom-in)
Miniatures, Gouache, 23.7x13.7 cm
Origin: Iran, 1431-1431, Timurid Dynasty

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.

The love of Layla and Majnun was so strong that they fainted with emotion when they met after a long period apart. They are depicted in the middle of the miniature, with an old man bringing them to consciousness with rose water. Set effectively against the golden sand are four tents in the Arab camp, with their curious inhabitants peering out from them. In the openings in the tents we can see bright carpets and hangings. The fire with its cauldron seems like a precious stone set into the gold background.

In the text which frames the miniature we read how Layla and Majnun lost consciousness and wild animals surrounded them, attacking those who tried to come near. Hence the lion falling on a man in the foreground.

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

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