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The Prophet Suleiman’s court, approx. 1700–1800

The Prophet Suleiman’s court, approx. 1700–1800

The Prophet Suleiman’s court, approx. 1700–1800. India; perhaps Deccan plateau region. Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum, Acquisition made possible by Mrs. Denise Hopper Fitch, with additional funding from Sudha Pennathur and Ed Messerly, 2007.14. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

 

In the Hindu tradition, the divine is embodied in a variety of deities. In Islam, on the other hand, like in Judaism and Christianity, the concept of divinity is focused on a single entity, and Muslim traditions do not have the same kind of mythology for the divine as do the Hindu traditions. The Koran, however, does describe some prophets as being endowed with special abilities by God.

The prophet Suleiman (Solomon in the Judeo-Christian traditions) is regarded in the Koran as one of the greatest kings. He is renowned for his deep wisdom and justice. He was granted knowledge of magic, spoke the language of birds and animals, commanded natural elements such as the winds, controlled the djinns (a class of intelligent beings created from fire), and his armies were recruited from men, birds, and the djinns. Later literature transformed Solomon into a near-mythical figure.

This painting illustrates the legendary court of Suleiman. He is shown seated on a bejeweled gold canopied throne holding a ring. This ring, said to be inscribed with the words "the most great name [of God]" gave him power over the winds, water, both good and evil djinns, and animals. His wife Bilqis, the illustrious queen of Sheba, is seated across from him on a similar throne, and they are surrounded by animals and birds of all kinds, fabulous creatures, and winged peris (mythical celestial beings).

 

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