Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Folio From A Manuscript Of The Kalila Wa Dimna: The Fable Of The Lion, The Fox And The Donkey
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour and ink on paper
28 x 18.5 cm
This page comes from a manuscript of Kalila wa Dimna, one of the most beloved and well-illustrated fables of all time. Ultimately derived from the Indian Panchatantra and Mahabharata written in Sanskrit around the year 200 CE, the fables were adapted and translated into numerous languages including Persian and Arabic. They address the moral education of princes through two jackals, Kalila and Dimna, and a host of animal protagonists, but they are more than just a mirror for princes. They illustrate universal human strengths and weaknesses, as well as aspirations for justice and truth. In this particular episode, the ailing lion sought a cure from the heart andears of a donkey. The donkey was tricked by the lion’s wily courtier, the fox, who proceeded to take its heart and ears for himself while the lion washed before his meal. The fourteenth-century Persian painting with its uneven, thinly applied colour provides a direct and vivid illustration to the tale. The enormous, many-leaved plant acts as a figural axis to ground the pictorial composition and contributes to the dynamism of the painting.
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