verso © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.152
Title
Majnun in the Wilderness, from Layla va Majnun
Other Titles
Former Title: Majnun in the Desert (painting, verso; text, recto), folio from a manuscript of the Khamsa of Nizami
Series/Book Title: Khamsa (Layla and Majnun) by Nizami
Classification
Manuscripts
Work Type
manuscript folio
Date
16th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Safavid period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/96764
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Ink and opaque watercolor on paper
Dimensions
40.1 x 27.3 cm (15 13/16 x 10 3/4 in.)
Provenance
[Christies, London, 18 October 1994, lot 32]. [Mansour Gallery, London, 1994 or 1995], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1994 or 1995 - 2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.152
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
In the tragic romance between Layla and Qays (later known as majnun—“mad” or “possessed”), the two met and fell in love as schoolchildren. Layla’s father rejected Qays’s marriage proposal and separated the pair, and, on his orders, Layla married another man. Majnun, suffering the pain of unfulfilled love, felt that he could no longer be part of human society and became a recluse in the desert wilderness, living among the animals, who accepted his behavior and understood his agony. Although married, Layla remained faithful to Majnun and confined herself to writing poetry. In the tragic conclusion to the story, Majnun died on his beloved’s grave.
The artist of this painting has illustrated an episode in which Majnun’s maternal uncle, Shaykh Salim, visits the love-stricken man in the desert and pleads with him to return to his former life and family. Majnun is shown half naked, a piece of blue cloth tied around his waist, embracing and talking to a deer. Salim, fully clothed in a long brown coat and a white turban, gestures to his nephew. The landscape setting represents a desert oasis with a stream, trees, grass, and flowers. Majnun and Salim are surrounded by animals, most of them in pairs whose members interact with each other, reinforcing the viewer’s impression of Majnun’s lonely solitude.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
108

Majnun in the Wilderness, from Laylā va Majnūn
Recto: text
Verso: text and illustration
Folio: 40.1 × 27.3 cm (15 13/16 × 10 3/4 in.)
2002.50.152

Published: Christie’s 1994a, lot 32.

In the tragic romance between Layla and Qays (later known as majnūn—“mad” or “possessed”), the two met and fell in love as schoolchildren. Layla’s father rejected Qays’s marriage proposal and separated the pair, and, on his orders, Layla married another man. Majnun, suffering the pain of unfulfilled love, felt that he could no longer be part of human society and became a recluse in the desert wilderness, living among the animals, who accepted his behavior and understood his agony. Although married, Layla remained faithful to Majnun and confined herself to writing poetry. In the tragic conclusion to the story, Majnun died on his beloved’s grave.

The artist of this painting has illustrated an episode in which Majnun’s maternal uncle, Shaykh Salim, visits the love-stricken man in the desert and pleads with him to return to his former life and family. Majnun is shown half naked, a piece of blue cloth tied around his waist, embracing and talking to a deer. Salim, fully clothed in a long brown coat and a white turban, gestures to his nephew. The landscape setting represents a desert oasis with a stream, trees, grass, and flowers. Majnun and Salim are surrounded by animals, most of them in pairs whose members interact with each other, reinforcing the viewer’s impression of Majnun’s lonely solitude.

Mika M. Natif

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 163-165, ill.; pp.245-246, cat. 108, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

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