Asian Art Museum | Education

The best of Asian art at the tip of your fingers for use in the classroom or at home.
Close

Sign up

In My Resources you can save the content you like all in one place. Get started by creating an account.

Create a new account

Page from a manuscript of Jami's Yusuf u Zulaykha

Page from a manuscript of Jami's Yusuf u Zulaykha, approx. 1550–1600

Page from a manuscript of Jami's Yusuf u Zulaykha, approx. 15501600. Iran. Ink and gold on paper. Bequest of Marjorie Walter Bissinger, F2003.33.36.

English

The Biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (Yusuf and Zulaykha in the Koran) was written as a mystical allegorical text on the subject of divine love by the eminent Persian poet Jami (d. 1492). This text has remained a key work of Persian literature over the centuries. 

Although manuscripts of Jami's Yusuf u Zulaykha were often illustrated, it is unclear whether this page comes from an illustrated copy; regardless, its elaborately painted borders serve as sufficient embellishment. The text here is written in a neat hand, in nasta'liq script, and the borders bear Chinese-inspired motifs of cranes and phoenixes amid clouds, rendered in two shades of gold. 

Books in the Islamic world were typically conceived as complete works of art: The pages bore intellectually stimulating content carefully written in a variety of elegant calligraphic scripts and were frequently illustrated. The borders were decorated with intricate designs in gold and/or colors, the whole was then enclosed in ornamented leather-bindings.