Illustration by Kamal ad-din Behzad “The King of Egypt and the poor man in love with him” stored in New York

In the art of oriental miniatures, the use of illustrations to parables is also of particular importance in order to convey in miniature images the Sufi teachings, understandable only to members of the sect.

During the period of Kamal ad-din Behzad, a tradition developed of creating illustrations of such content, in which the essence of complex philosophical concepts was revealed through the description of parable plots. For example, this is clearly visible in the miniature “The King of Egypt and the poor man in love with him” by Kamal ad-din Behzad, which is now kept in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.‌‌‌‌

Illustration by Kamal ad-din Behzad “The King of Egypt and the poor man in love with him” stored in New York

The illustration is made for the parable of the poor man who was selflessly in love with the king and was executed because the king supposed that he failed to prove his feelings.

In one of his early works, Behzad depicts a typical scene of the court of a ruler, which he could observe at the court of Sultan Husayn. The composition is clear and symmetrical, referring to early Herat painting. In a courtyard fenced with a red picket fence in front of a young and beautiful king of Egypt sitting on a sufa, a poor man in love dressed as a Sufi on the knees is depicted. Behind him is the executioner with the sword, which he is just about to take out of its scabbard. This is the central group of the composition, revealing its meaning. Around the witnesses of this scene settled in small groups. Some of them express their surprise with gestures and facial expressions. We see a beautiful two-storey palace with a triangular loggia protruding outward, through an open window of which the interior of the room is seen in perspective, where the figured wall niche for dishes traditional for a Khorasan dwelling is visible – a kosamon with exposed dishes of various shapes. Above it is a multifaceted dome, and at a distance, above the hall, a skylight rises.

The miniature is good in quality but still far from the depth of thought that the artist can express in his mature works.

You can learn more about the topic in the book-album "The legacy of Kamal ud-din Behzad in the World Collections" (L volume) in the series "Cultural Legacy of Uzbekistan in the World Collections".

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