This miniature watercolor illustrates a scene from the epic Persian poem Laila and Majnun, a 12th-century romance of unrequited love.
Since these two star-crossed lovers were forced apart by their families, the heartbroken hero, Majnun, retreated to the wilderness. There, he lived a strict life of an ascetic, while his beloved Laila was forced to marry another. In this painting, Laila has come to visit and comfort Majnun.
The scene is dark and moody, reflecting the separation and suffering endured by the lovers. Laila is shown richly dressed and in the worldly company of handmaidens and servants. Separated from her by a small stream, the lonely Majnun is dressed in only a loincloth and befriended by a lowly hound. The spiritual bond that unites the lovers is revealed in the pairing of beasts and fowl, animals that accompany and protect Majnun in his reclusive life.
Laila Visiting Majnun, which was last on view in 1984, is installed with works from the Museum’s collection of Islamic art in Gallery 120.