No tale is told the same way twice, not even a story as universal as the romance of Majnun and Layla, archetypal star-crossed lovers of 7th-century Arabia. Transmission inevitably introduces transformation as a tale is stretched for new audiences, and the story of Majnun, whose longing for his beloved Layla sets him on the path of madness, has traveled far from its origins. This exhibition includes independent images of the lovers as well as illustrations for Persian, Turkish, and Indian poetic texts. Variations in these paintings reflect the broad geographical and chronological ranges of their production, but the differences also speak to the nature of the story itself—at once universal and elastic.
Organized by Mary McWilliams, Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, and Sunil Sharma, senior lecturer, Boston University.