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The dream garden of the great Persian poets

The dream garden of the great Persian poets

From a manuscript of Navaʾi, Sadd-i Iskandar (Wall of Alexander), dated AH 890 (1485–86 AD). Illustration attributed to Qasim ʿAli.

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Elliott 339, fol 95v

This masterful illustration from Navaʾi’s Turkish-language version of Nizami’s Alexander narrative conveys a dreamlike vision of revered Persian poets. Nizami is shown seated in a scholar’s white turban and with a long beard, his scribe’s tools in front of him. He welcomes Jami, who is kneeling, and introducing Navaʾi, who is respectfully covering his hands with the sleeves of his green robe.

Apart from Jami and Navaʾi, the poets depicted are the spirits or ghosts of great writers of the past. The whole scene is set at night with a deep lapis-lazuli sky pierced by a crescent moon, shining directly on the figure of Nizami.