Majnun throwing himself onto Layla’s grave, folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi

Historical period(s)
Delhi Sultanate period, ca. 1450 or earlier
Pre-Mughal School
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
H x W: 34 x 22.9 cm (13 3/8 x 9 in)
Northern India
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Manuscript folio

Delhi Sultanate (1206 - 1526), India, Khamsa, Layla, Majnun, nasta'liq script
Provenance research underway.

Poets and painters associated with the Sultanate courts of India created an artistic culture that integrated Persian, Islamic and local elements. The author of the Khamsa (Quintet), the great poet, musician and mystic Amir Khusrau (ca. 1253-1325), composed poetry in both Persian and Hindi. Two centuries later, painters at another Sultanate court depicted the Khamsa stories in a style that combined the rounded silhouettes and three-quarter profile faces of near Eastern painting with the strong color of local Indian painting.

The love story of Laila and Majnun is one of the oldest and most passionate of Islamic tales. It tells of the handsome and beloved Majnun, the son of a Bedouin, who falls in love with the beautiful Laila. Their parents refuse to allow them to meet and Laila is forced to marry. When Laila dies of grief, Majnun laments at her tomb. The painter emphasized the tragedy by isolating, upon a field of saturated red, Majnun's body draped listlessly over Laila's coffin.

Published References
  • World of Khusrau: Innovations & Contributions. .
  • Anis Farooqi. Art of India and Persia. New Delhi. pl. 7.
  • Richard Ettinghausen. Paintings of the Sultans and Emperors of India in American Collections. Lalit Kala Series of Indian Art New Delhi. pl. 1.
  • Eloise Brac de la Perriere. Les manuscrits a peintures dans l'Inde des sultanats: l'exemple de la Khamse dispersee d'Amir Khosrow Dehlavi, c. 1450. vol. 56. p. 32, fig. 19.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd ed. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 1B, pp. 42-3.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. cat. 2b, pp. 43, 38, 45.
  • Ernst Grube. The World of Islam. Landmarks of the World's Art London. p. 63, pl. 39.
  • Barbara Brend. Perspectives on Persian Painting: Illustrations to Amir Khusrau's Khamsah. New York and London. p. 98, pl. 25.
  • Douglas Barrett. Paintings from Islamic Lands: Essays. Oriental Studies, no. 4 Oxford and London. p. 130, fig. 84.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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