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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Illustrated Manuscript of Layla and Majnun by Hamdi
Work Type
c. 1579
Creation Place: Middle East, Türkiye (Turkey)
Ottoman period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Painting with text; ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, with lacquer binding
18.4 x 11.4 x 1.3 cm (7 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Jean Soustiel, Paris, possibly May 1975], sold; to Edwin Binney, 3rd, by 1977, bequest; to Harvard University Art Museum, 1985.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard Art Museums
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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This is a small illustrated copy of Hamdi’s Layla and Majnun. Hamdi (d. 1503) was an Ottoman poet who wrote his Layla and Majnun in Turkish in 1499 after the famous Persian work of Jami with the same title. In fact Hamdi references in his own poetry Hatifi, the nephew of Jami who also composed a Layla and Majnun in Persian. Although this copy is not dated, notes added to the empty space at the beginning of the manuscript by the same hand who copied the rest of the manuscript include poems dedicated to Sokollu Mehmed Pasha’s death in 987 H/1579. The manuscript was therefore copied in or around 1579 and it may have been planned for this Pasha who was the grand vizier at that time. The square and oval shaped seals on the first and second folios must have belonged to later but unidentified owners.
The manuscript has 123 folios copied in two columns and 17 lines of nastaliq script. There is a small illuminated panel at the beginning of the text and seven illustrations spread to the entirety of the manuscript on folios 14r, 22v, 39v, 46v, 50v, 108v, and 110r. Although the relationship between the text and the illustrations is strong the painter uses his Ottoman context to depict a story that takes place in an Arab desert. The last folio which may have contained an original colophon has been replaced by another one. The lacquer binding is not original and probably belonged to a Qajar manuscript of late 18th century from Iran. Most likely the doublures (inner side of the covers) have been reversed to serve as the outside covers.

The subject of the illustrations are:
14r: Majnun disguised as a blind beggar comes to Layla’s house.
22v: Majnun’s father visits Layla’s father to marry his son to Layla.
39v: Layla and her friends enjoy the countryside on a spring day.
46v: Majnun sees the battle between his tribe and Layla's.
50v: The end of the battle
108v: After Layla’s invitation Majnun happily goes to her and all the animals in the desert follow him.
110r: The lovers are reunited under the tent.

Publication History

  • Edwin Binney III, Turkish Treasures from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd, exh. cat., Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR, 1979), page 6/figure 4
  • Serpil Bagci, Filiz Cagman, Gunsel Renda, and Zeren Tanindi, Ottoman Painting (Istanbul, 2010), p. 190, fig. 152.

Exhibition History

  • On the Path of Madness: Representations of Majnun in Persian, Turkish, and Indian Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/27/2007 - 03/23/2008

Related Works

Verification Level

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