The Fainting of Laylah and Majnun from Niẓāmī's "Khamsah"


This folio depicts a well-known passage from the tragic story of Laylah and Majnun described in the third book of Niẓāmī Ganjavī's Khamsah (Quintet). Forcibly separated by the animosity of their respective tribes toward each other, forced marriages, and years of exile in the wilderness, the two ill-fated lovers meet again for the last time before each is to die, thanks to the intervention of Majnun's elderly messenger. Upon seeing each other in a palm-grove outside of Laylah's camp, they faint from pain and extreme passion. The messenger tries to revive the lovers, while the wild animals, protective of Majnun ("king of the wilderness"), attack unwanted intruders. The location and time of the narrative is hinted at by the two tents in the middle ground and the night sky in the background. The composition's style and hues are typical of paintings made in the city of Shiraz during the second half of the 16th century. Many manuscripts at this time were produced for the domestic market and international export, rather than by royal commission. The painting appears to have been executed at the same time as the text, which survives on the painting's verso. Nine other folios from the same manuscript, mostly initial and terminal folios of the various books from the Khamsah, are held in the Library of Congress. The text is in Nasta'liq script, four columns per page, each with 20 lines.

Last updated: December 24, 2013