2007.183.2 recto (painting) © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Themes of lovers and wine appear frequently in the works of the Persian poet Hafiz and may be understood on many levels, from descriptions of earthly pleasures to metaphors for poetic inspiration or transcendental spiritual states. In the ecstatic garden scene above, a prince reaches for a cup of wine with one hand and joins the other with his beloved’s, echoing the verses at the top:

A rose without the glow of a lover bears no joy;

Without wine to drink the spring brings no joy.

The painting above has been attributed to Sultan Muhammad, one of the most inventive and accomplished painters of his age. The artist left one of his very few signatures on the remarkable painting below, which blends elegance with earthy humor. A close look at the vignette of the youth reaching into a jar reveals a deft touch: the relief decoration on the jars and the folds on the turban of his interlocutor are rendered in impasto.

This painting depicts a multi-storied drinking party, where the revelry devolves from angelic wine tasting on the roof to stupor on the lawn below. Here the painter has liberally interpreted the couplet at the top of the page, which begins, “The angel of mercy took the reveling cup...”

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Attributed to Sultan Muhammad, Persian (16th century)
Lovers' Picnic, painting (recto), text (verso), illustrated folio from a manuscript of the Divan (Collected Works) of Hafiz
Work Type
manuscript folio
c. 1530
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Tabriz
Safavid period
Physical Descriptions
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
19 x 12.4 cm (7 1/2 x 4 7/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: A couplet by Hafiz is written in the text blocks at the upper edge of the painting. It has been translated by Martin B. Dickson to read: "A rose without the glow of a lover bears no joy; Without wine to drink, the spring brings no joy."
  • inscription: In the text blocks at the upper edge of the painting (translated by Martin B. Dickson): "A rose without the glow of a lover bears no joy; / Without wine to drink, the spring brings no joy."
Stuart Cary Welch, Jr., Contootook, NH, (by 2007), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2007.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Stuart Cary Welch in honor of Edith Iselin Gilbert Welch
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This well-known painting features a pair of courtly lovers in a spring garden. Holding hands, they are seated on a carpet, shaded by a canopy bearing an exuberant arabesque. A wine bearer offers the young man a golden bowl; musicians and dancers perform in the foreground on the banks of a stream bordered by flowers. The painting appears on what was once folio 66 recto of a famous manuscript of the Divan of Hafiz and illustrates the 229th ghazal of Hafiz (P. Loloi, Hafiz Master of Persian Poetry, A critical Poetry, New York, 2004, p.149). Only the first line of the poem is shown on the illustrated page and the rest of the poem can be found on the verso side. Because the name of Sam Mirza (b. 1517), brother to the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp, appears on one of the now dispersed paintings, it is posited that the prince was the patron of the manuscript.
Publication History

Armenag Sakisian, La Miniature Persane du XIIe au XVIIe Siecle, Les Editions G. van Oest (Paris, France, 1929), pp. 113, pl. LXXXI, fig. 146

Laurence Binyon and J. V. S. Wilkinson, Persian Miniature Painting: Including a Critical and Descriptive Catalogue of the Miniatures Exhibited at Burlington House, January-March, 1931, exh. cat., Oxford University Press (NY) and Oxford University Press (UK) (London, England, 1933), pp. 112, 115, 116, 128-9:illus. Pl. LXXXIII A, no. 127

Ivan Stchoukine, Les peintures des manuscrits safavis 1502-1587, P. Guenther (Paris, 1959), pp. 60-61

Basil Gray, La Peinture Persane, Skira (Geneve, 1961), pp. 130, 136, 137

Stuart Cary Welch, Persian Painting: Five Royal Safavid Manuscripts of the Sixteenth Century, George Braziller (New York, 1976), p. 117

Stuart Cary Welch, Wonders of the Age: Masterpieces of Early Safavid Painting, 1501-1576, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1979), pp. 122-23

Martin Bernard Dickson and Stuart Cary Welch, The Houghton Shahnameh, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1981), pp.37-39, 58

Elizabeth Murray, Cultivating Sacred Space: Gardening for the Soul, Pomegranate (San Francisco, 1997), page 22

Priscilla Soucek, Interpreting the Ghazals of Hafiz, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Cambridge, MA, Spring, 2003), No. 43, Islamic Arts, p. 159, fig. 6

Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Art Museum Annual Report, ed. Thomas W. Lentz (Cambridge, 2007-2008), p. 34

Farid al-Din Attar, Layli Anvar, and Michael Barry, Le Cantique des Oiseaux: illustré par la peinture en Islam d’orient, Diane de Selliers (Paris, 2012), p. 278, ill. p. 279.

Tina Marie Theresa D'Alessandro Powell, Picnic in Pisticci, Big Fat Pen Publishing, Inc. (Canada, 2012), p. 39, ill.; p. 98

Robert Hillenbrand and Firuza Abdullaeva, ed., Ferdowsi, the Mongols and the History of Iran: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia. Studies in Honor of Charles Melville., I. B. Tauris (London, 2013), p. 338; plate 27

Exhibition History

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 05/14/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu