Stay in front of the door if you want it opened
Farîd al-Dîn ‘ATTÂR (XIIe siècle)
The Conference of the Birds
Paper, India, 18th century – CB 503
Farid al-Din ‘Attar was a contemporary of Omar Khayyam. He is one of the greatest Persian poets of the 12th century. He was a prolific writer whose works were entirely inspired by Sufism. The allegorical poem, Conference of the Birds, known in the West thanks to the adaptation of the French playwright Jean-Claude Carrière, is certainly Farid al Din ‘Attar’s most famous text. It is composed of over 4,600 couplets that tell the story of how the birds of the world, prompted by the hoopoe, go in search of the Simurgh, the Persian mythical bird. Torn between the desire to search and fear, the birds share the same feelings as humans: the parrot prefers the golden bars of its cage; the owl is drawn to the ruins where it lives; the nightingale is engrossed in its love for the rose; the peacock wants its tail to crown royalty. Following a long and perilous journey, the birds finally reach Simurgh’s abode. Simurgh speaks and the birds see their reflection in the celestial bird: ‘The Sun of my Majesty is a mirror. Whoever beholds himself in this mirror, sees there his soul and his body’.
The small volume in the Bodmer collection was copied in India in the 18th century. The simplicity of its paintings is in striking contrast with the extraordinarily delicate drawings of some Persian manuscripts.
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