Standing Woman and a "Ghazal" of Hafiz


This painting includes an outer frame comprised of a ghazal (lyric poem) composed by the Persian poet Hafiz (died 1388‒89). The ghazal describes a lover's affection for his beloved until the day of his death. The lover compares the woman's eyebrows to a mihrab (the prayer niche in a mosque) and thus the direction of his own repeated desirous entreaties. He also states that he is willing to seek out magicians to find a love potion to spellbind her. It appears that the poem is linked to the painting it contains, which depicts a beautiful young woman walking among plants and using her right index finger to point to her strikingly arched eyebrows. Between her two fingers she also holds a tuft of hair, either taken from her own head or perhaps given to her by her lover as a token of his affection. The motif of the large abru (arched eyebrow) as a mark of feminine beauty is common in Persian art and literature. The composition’s style is typical of single-sheet paintings produced in Safavid Isfahan, the capital of Persia (Iran), during the 17th century. At that time, painters such as Riza ʻAbbasi (died 1635) and Muʻin Musavvir (died circa 1707) frequently depicted single figures or lovers in embrace. Backgrounds tend toward single tones (such as grisaille) or include various motifs lightly painted in gold as used in this particular composition. This painting originally was signed, as a small black smudge is visible on the right of the woman’s hip. The artist’s signature has been erased and is now illegible.

Last updated: September 30, 2016