Ink and color on wood; 2 x 7 15/16 in. (5.1 x 20.2 cm)
Lent by The Kronos Collections (L.1985.42.28)
Depicted on this manuscript cover are two delicately painted scenes from the play Shakuntala, which was written by the famous Indian poet and dramatist Kalidasa in the fourth or fifth century. Unlike the religious subjects that appear on the vast majority of other surviving manuscript covers, Shakuntala is a secular story. It is a romance about a king, Dushyanta, who encounters the miraculously beautiful Shakuntala while hunting in the woods near her stepfather's hermitage. They instantly fall in love, marry, have a child, separate because of a curse, and finally reunite. On the left, King Dushyanta and Shakuntala appear seated on decorated cushions. This scene most likely depicts the king's gift of his ring, to remind his wife of his love. Later, it is the sight of the ring that dispels the curse and causes the lovers to be reunited. The scene to the right depicts the king, with his left hand raised to his chin, listening to a jester.