"A Ruffian Spares the Life of a Poor Man", Folio 4v from a Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds)

Author: Farid al-Din `Attar (ca. 1142–1220)

Object Name: Folio from an illustrated manuscript

Date: ca. 1600

Geography: Iran, Isfahan

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)
Page: H. 12 7/8 in. (32.7 cm)
W. 8 5/16 in. (21.1 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1963

Accession Number: 63.210.4


The anecdote of this illustration belongs to a part of the invocation that explains the Unity of God. A pitiful man was about to be put to death by a ruffian. When the ruffian attempted to kill him, he realized that the poor man had a piece of bread in his hand. The ruffian asked him from whom he had got it and the poor man answered that he had received it from the ruffian's wife. The ruffian said, "I cannot kill him since we had the same bread!" Right after this story, ’Attar mentions gratitude toward the God who supplies him with bread and prays that God will always be with him.
The illustration is a straightforward depiction of the story. The style of clothing is typical for the Safavid period; however, the representation of a garden is characteristic of the Timurid period. The artist may have adopted features from the Timurid illustration on folio 28r to link this illustration with the Timurid ones.