Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper
7 3/8 x 5 1/8 in. (18.7 x 13 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1963 (63.210.44r)
This painting depicts a story narrated by the hoopoe in response to a bird who insisted that he had laboriously acquired perfection on his own and did not see any reason to pursue a painful journey to find the Simurgh. The hoopoe admonishes the bird for his self-satisfaction and explains that in order to shed worldliness, one must abandon one's pride. The story is as follows: A man with a long beard is drowned at sea. A passerby says, "Take off your tubra [a bag put on a horse's nose for feeding]!" The man replies, "This is not a tubra! This is my own beard!" The passerby says, "Your beard is marvelous; but it causes you to drown in the sea." The beard is a symbol of dignity, and this story teaches us that pride in something so petty as a beard will eventually bring one to ruin.
This illustration depicts the drowning man and the passerby in the background. The scene in the foreground of men cutting and gathering wood, which is not mentioned in the text, may have further connotations.