This illustration is associated with a story related by the hoopoe as a response to a bird who complains about his fear of death. In the story, a son grieves the death of his father in front of his coffin and a sufi soothes him, explaining that his father had experienced much pain and that no one can avoid death. Here, the painter depicts the incident as occurring in front of a cemetery gate. The scene behind the gate is replete with motifs that are irrelevant to the story itself. The viewer at the court may have enjoyed deciphering them.
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:"Funeral Procession", Folio 35r from a Mantiq al-Tayr (Language of the Birds)
Author:Farid al-Din `Attar (Iranian, Nishapur ca. 1142–ca. 1220 Nishapur)
Date:dated A.H. 892/ 1487 CE
Geography:Made in present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Medium:Opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper
Dimensions:Painting: H. 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm) W. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm) Page: H. 13 in. (33 cm) W. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm) Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm) W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Credit Line:Fletcher Fund, 1963
Four Folios from the Mantiq al-tair
Farid al-din ‘Attar’s epic poem the Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds), composed about 1187, is a parable about the desire for union with God that is couched in the terminology of sufism. It describes a physical and spiritual journey through seven valleys by a group of birds that move from their initial quest (talab) to their final goal of annihilation of the self (fana) through unity with God. The stages of their journey are explained through the use of anecdotes.
This copy is notable for its high-quality illustrations produced in two distinct periods and places. The earlier phase, in which most of the text and four of the paintings were executed, is linked to the city of Herat (folios 63.210.28, .35, .44, .49). Its colophon (63.210.1), signed by Sultan ‘Ali al-Mashhadi, dates the work to the first day of the fifth month of the second year of the last ten years preceding 900—that is, to A.H. 892/April 25, 1487 A.D. The later phase occurred about 1600, when the manuscript was refurbished, probably for Iran’s ruler, Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1587–1629). Elements from this phase include the binding, the illuminated opening folios signed at Isfahan by Zain al-‘Abidin al-Tabrizi, and four of its pictures, one of which is signed by Habiballah (folios 63.210.4, .11, .18, .22). In 1609 Shah ‘Abbas donated this manuscript to the ancestral tomb of the Safavid family at Ardabil.
Sultan ‘Ali al-Mashhadi is known to have worked for Herat’s contemporary ruler, Sultan Husain Baiqara (r. 1470–1506), and for one of its leading intellectuals, Mir ‘Ali Shir Nava’i, whose interest in the theme of this text is signaled by the fact that he composed an analogous poem in Turki titled Lisan al-tair (The Speech of the Birds).
All of the subjects to be illustrated in this copy of the Mantiq al-tair were determined at the time of its copying by Sultan ‘Ali al-Mashhadi in the late fifteenth century, but the manuscript’s first four scenes were not completed until about 1600 in Isfahan. Three of these are frequently depicted in other copies of ‘Attar’s text: the initial gathering of the birds at the onset of their quest (63.210.11) and two scenes from the story of a sufi, Shaikh San‘an, who loved a Christian maiden (63.210.18, .22). These pictures seem to have a clear connection to major themes in ‘Attar’s text, although Habiballah, the artist who signed the "Concourse of the Birds" on a small rock at the center of the picture, has added the superfluous figure of a man holding a rifle.
Two of the manuscript’s remaining four paintings, made toward the end of the fifteenth century in Timurid Herat, present more oblique references to ‘Attar’s text. Both "The Son Who Mourned His Father" (63.210.35) and "The Drowning Man" (63.210.44) have been interpreted as sufi allegories. The other two fifteenth-century paintings (63.210.28, .49) appear to be more illustrative than symbolic. Yumiko Kamada has suggested that these more subtle paintings reflect the appreciation of textual and pictorial intricacy in late fifteenth-century Herat.
Priscilla P. Soucek in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. For an overview of publications about this manuscript through 2010, see Kamada, Yumiko. "A Taste for Intricacy: An Illustrated Manuscript of Mantiq al-Tayr in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Orient: Reports of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan 45 (2010), pp. 129–75.
2. I bid., pp. 136–40, and Kia, Chad. "Is the Bearded Man Drowning?: Picturing the Figurative in a Late-Fifteenth-Century Painting from Herat." Muqarnas 23 (2006), p. 97.
3. Kamada 2010 (footnote 1), pp. 144–49.
Inscription: Inscription in Persian in nasta‘liq script:
Attar, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr منطق الطیر story سوگواري پسري در مرگ پدر A boy's mourning after the death of his father
(Farīd al-Dīn ‘Aṭṭār, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr, ed. Sayyid Ṣādiq Guharīn, Bungāh Tarjama va Nashr-i Kitāb publication, Tehran, 1342/1959, p.131).
(A. Ghouchani, 2011)
Marking: Upper right: seal of Shah Abbas
Shah Abbas I, Isfahan, Iran (ca. 1600–1608; presented to Shrine of ShaikhSafi Al-Din, Ardabil, Iran); Shrine of Shaikh Safi Al-Din, Ardabil, Iran(ca. 1608–sack of Ardebil, 1826); M. Farid Parbanta(until 1963; sale, Sotheby's, London,December 9, 1963, no. 111, to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971, no. 157.
The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Princely Patrons: Three Royal Manuscripts of the Timurid Dynasty," March 4–June 4, 1995, no catalogue.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sultan Ali of Mashhad, Master of Nasta'liq," January 19–May 27, 2001, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rumi and the Sufi Tradition," October 23, 2007–February 3, 2008, no catalogue.
Toronto. Aga Khan Museum. "In Search of the Artist," September 1, 2014–November 16, 2014, no catalogue.
Lukens, Marie G. "The Language of the Birds: The Fifteenth-Century Miniatures." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. XXV, no. 9 (May 1967). pp. 330–32, ill. fig. 22 (b/w).
Robinson, Basil William. "Drawings of the Masters." In Persian Drawings from the 14th through the 19th century. Boston and Toronto: Shorewood Publishers Inc., 1965. p. 55, ill. pl. 23 (b/w).
Grube, Ernst J. "The Early School of Herat and its Impact on Islamic Painting of the Later 15th, the 16th and 17th Centuries." In The Classical Style in Islamic Painting. Venice: Edizioni Oriens, 1968. ill. pl. 34 (b/w).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1970. no. 157, p. 180, ill. (b/w).
Swietochowski, Marie. "The Historical Background and Illustrative Character of the Metropolitan Museum's Mantiq al-Tayr of 1483." In Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Richard Ettinghausen. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. pp. 54–55, ill. fig. 20 (b/w).
Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). ill. p. 25 (color).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 90–91, ill. fig. 69 (color).
Lentz, Thomas W., and Glenn D. Lowry. "Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century." In Timur and the Princely Vision. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989. p. 298, ill. fig. 100 (b/w).
Canby, Sheila R. "The Drawings and Paintings of Riza-Yi Abbasi of Isfahan." In The Rebellious Reformer
. London: Azimuth Editions, 1996. p. 234, ill. fig. 29 (b/w).
Grabar, Oleg. Mostly Miniatures: An introduction to Persian painting. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. p. 135, ill. fig. 71 (color).
Sims, Eleanor, B. Marshak, and Ernst J. Grube. "Persian Painting and its Sources." In Peerless Images. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 60, pp. 144–45, ill. p. 145 (color).
Barry, Mike, and Stuart Cary Welch. "et l'Enigme de Behzad de Herat (1465–1535)." In L'Art Figuratif en Islam Medieval. Paris: Flammarion, 2004. pp. 318–19, ill. p. 319 (color).
Kia, Chad. "Is the Bearded Man Drowning? Picturing the Figurative in a Late-Fifteenth-Century Painting from Herat." Muqarnas vol. 23 (2006). pp. 85–105, ill. p. 86, fig. 2 (color).
Lewisohn, Leonard, and Christopher Shackle, ed. "the art of spiritual flight." In Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition. London; New York: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2006. p. 164, ill. pl. 10 (color).
Kamada, Yumiko. "An Illustrated Manuscript of Mantiq al-Tayr in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Orient vol. XLV (2010). pp. 136–37, 166, 173, ill. fig. 2.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 127B, pp. 171, 188–90, ill. p. 189 (color).
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.
The Met's collection of Islamic art is one of the most comprehensive in the world and ranges in date from the seventh to the twenty-first century. Its more than 15,000 objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions from Spain to Indonesia.