The Bustan of Sa’di, completed in 1257, relates moral advice with illustrative anecdotes. The manuscript to which this painting belongs was likely copied in Herat, but it was illustrated for an Uzbek patron several years later, probably in Bukhara in the 1530s. The story of Yusuf and Zulaikha appears in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Jami’s Haft Awrang, in addition to the Bustan of Sa’di. According to the story, Yusuf’s arresting beauty captures the hearts of all of the women he encounters. Zulaikha, unable to quell her thoughts of Yusuf, attempts to seduce him, but he rejects her advances until they meet again and marry many years later. In some versions of the story, this uncontrollable passion is intended as a Sufi metaphor for a beloved’s yearning for union with the divine; it illustrates the triumph of the spiritual over carnal love.
[ Nasli M. Heeramaneck (Indian), New York, until 1937; sold to Kahn family]; Kahn family, by descent (1937–74; sold to MMA by Dr. E.A. Kahn on behalf ofhis daughter, Mrs. Barbara Potter, Germany)
de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Exhibition of Islamic Art," February 24, 1937–March 22, 1937, no. 3.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 79.
Aga-Oglu, Mehmet. "M. H. De Young Memorial Museum, February 24 to March 22, 1937." In Exhibition of Islamic Art. San Francisco, 1937. no. 3, p. 23.
Wickens, G., and Sa'di. Morals Pointed and Tales Adorned : The Bustan of Sa'di. Persian heritage series; no. 17. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1978. pp. 236-237.
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 79, pp. 196-197, ill. p. 197 (b/w).