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Layla and Majnun in the wilderness with animals, from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi

Layla and Majnun in the wilderness with animals, from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi

c. 1590–1600

attributed to Sanwalah

(Indian, active c. 1580–1600)

Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper

Page: 24.9 x 16.8 cm (9 13/16 x 6 5/8 in.); Painting: 18.6 x 16.2 cm (7 5/16 x 6 3/8 in.)

Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 2013.301

Fun Fact

White paint, prone to flaking, chipped off her face, revealing the underdrawing.

Description

Nestled in the multicolored rocks are the reunited lovers Layla and Majnun, forced by society to remain separated for years. Majnun’s name means “madman,” since the separation drove him past the brink of sanity. Exiling himself to the wilderness, he became emaciated. When Layla found him after a prophetic dream, the wild animals gathered around, drawn to the purity and depth of their love. This painting illustrates a version of the story as told by an Indian author who wrote in Persian. He altered the ending given by previous Persian authors to the ancient Bedouin tale that originated among nomadic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, in which Layla dies before the couple can be physically reunited.

See also

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