Kamal ud-din Behzad 1450 – 1535

The Seduction of Yusuf

illumination (30 × 21 cm) — 1488 Museum National Library and Archives of Egypt, Cairo

Kamal ud-din Behzad biography

This work is linked to Genesis 39:7

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One of the 114 suras in the Qur'an is Sura Yusuf, named after the prophet Yusuf. It tells of the life of the prophet. It is largely similar to the story of Joseph in Genesis.

The sura also contains the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (in the Bible she has no name). The wife shows great interest in Joseph, her husband's servant. Joseph rejects her. She takes revenge by accusing him falsely.

In Persia the story was retold in many versions. One was by the 13th century poet Sa'adi. Two centuries later a certain sultan Ali al-Katib put it in writing, with illustrations by the Persian artist Behzad. In this story Zulaikha (Potiphar's wife now has a name) chases Yusuf through the seven rooms of her palace. In the last room she tries to embrace him, but he manages to escape untouched.

Kamal ud-din Behzad was known as the best painter of Herat, a Persian city in what now is western Afghanistan. He used paint, ink and gold for this illumination. The emphasis of the composition is on the complex architecture of the palace.

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