Laylah and Majnun Meet in School from Niẓāmī's "Khamsah"


This calligraphic fragment describes the first encounter between the star-crossed lovers Laylah and Majnun when they are children in school, as described by Niẓāmī Ganjavī (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203) in the third book of his Khamsah (Quintet). In the story, Qays (also known as Majnun) is sent to school by his father to learn to read and write. One day, however, young Qays notices a lovely girl with hair that is laylah (literally as black as night) and falls deeply in love with her. The layout of this fragment, with text written in horizontal and diagonal lines, is called a "carpet" page. The triangular spaces left empty by the diagonal verses have been filled with illuminated decoration. The carpet-page structure usually is found at the end of a particular chapter or scene and often precedes a painting. One can surmise that a depiction of Laylah and Majnun's encounter in school would have appeared immediately after this text folio. The arrangement of the page and the Nasta'liq script used in the fragment are typical of Khamsah manuscripts produced in 16th-century Persia. Paintings would have accompanied such a manuscript.

Last updated: December 24, 2013