"Shaikh Mahneh and the Villager", Folio 49r 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: 1487

Geography: Made in present-day Afghanistan, Herat

Medium: Opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper

Dimensions: 7 3/4 x 5 3/4in. (19.7 x 14.6cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1963

Accession Number: 63.210.49


This painting illustrates a story that stresses the importance of the quest (talab). The story is as follows: Shaikh Mahneh (Abu Sa'id Mihna'i, 967–1049), a famous shaikh of Khorasan, wandered in the wilderness in a state of depression. He saw a peasant in the distance cultivating wasteland with an ox-plow. The peasant emitted light. Shaikh Mahneh approached the peasant and told him of his painful condition. The peasant advised him to be patient and pursue the endless quest.
This illustration depicts the conversation between the peasant and Shaikh Mahneh in the foreground. On the other hand, a group of men weighing melons and a dervish sleeping at the base of a tree have no connection to the text itself. The reason for the inclusion of this scene awaits further research.