"The Beggar who Professed his Love for a Prince", Folio 28r from a Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds)

Author: Farid al-Din `Attar (ca. 1142–1220)

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: dated A.H. 892/A.D. 1487

Geography: Made in present-day Afghanistan, Herat

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm)
W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)
Page: H. 13 1/16 in. (33.2 cm)
W. 8 7/16 in. (21.4 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1963

Accession Number: 63.210.28


As a response to a bird's complaint, the hoopoe tells the story of a poor man who is in love with an Egyptian king. The king summons the poor man and asks him to choose between exile and death. The poor man chooses exile and is immediately beheaded. When the king is asked why he committed this act, he answers, "It is because he was not entirely in love with me. If he truly loved me, he would have chosen death rather than exile. If he had chosen death, I would have become his dervish."
While this story is set in Egypt, the beggar, the king, and all of his attendants wear Timurid garments and the setting resembles that of the Timurid court. The story may have been chosen in order to depict the opulent atmosphere surrounding the patron of this manuscript.