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Collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Textile, 16th century

type: textile

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Episode from the story of Laila and Majnun; repeated in reversed rows in pale golds and tans and very pale turquoise on dark brown ground (originally yellow, salmon, light green, light blue and white on black ground). Laila in a houdah on a camel led by a turbaned servant; inscription in cartouche on side of houda: Amal: Ghiyath, meaning, "The work of Ghiyath". Majnun seated, holding a gazelle; flowering plants and birds and animals, including spotted leopard, stag, roaring lion, antelope, dog, fill the ground. Certain details like lion, houdah peak, faces, parts of plans show traces of gilt foil applied to vellum and wound on silk core; metal traces are so scant, however, that to superficial glance, all areas appear to be in silk. *NOTE: A pair of lovers whose story was told by Nizami, a famous Persian poet (1140-1203), in his "Khamsa" and who were thereafter popular subjects in miniatures, pottery, and personage textiles. Parental opposition separated the lovers, and Majnun wandered in the desert writing poetry, alone except for the wild creatures he tamed. Laila seeks him there and finds him with a gazelle whose eyes remind him of her.


John Pierpont Morgan