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A prince enthroned conversing

A prince enthroned conversing

From a manuscript of Saʿdi, Bustan (The orchard), copied c 1590–1600

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Pers c 39, fol 6r

The poet Saʿdi chose his pen name, or takhullus, to reflect his relationship to his patron, prince Saʿdi ibn Zangi of Shiraz. The Bustan was the first of his major works written in honour of his patron. It is an elegant versified epic made up of stories of earthly and spiritual love, fables and moral instruction.

In this illustration a prince is shown enthroned and in conversation with a bearded, turbanned figure who kneels at his feet, a silken robe draped over his shoulders. The turban suggests piety, wisdom and scholarship, all attributes of senior court officials or even of the poet Saʿdi himself.

The Bustan's companion work Gulistan (The rose garden), is a didactic work written in lyrical verse outlining rules for good conduct in life for ordinary men and women as well as royalty. In describing this work, Saʿdi wrote: 'A rose will only live five days or six, but this rose garden will remain fresh forever'.