Neẓāmi Ganjavi – Haft Peykar, 1197 AD (The Seven Portraits)


Bahrām finds the picture of the Seven (FairFaces in Khavarnaq.

The prince one day arriving from the plain, was walking through Khavarnaq gay of mood.
He saw a secret room with fastened door, which by the keeper had been overlooked.
The prince had not set foot within that room, nor had the courtiers or custodians.
He said, Why is this room locked up, and where the keeper of it; where too is the key?
The keeper came (and) gave the prince the key. The prince unlocked the door and saw the room.
A room saw? Nay, a treasure-house, through which the gazer’s eyes would dealers be in gems.
The pictures of that fine abode of art excelled a hundred Chinese picture-rooms.
They on the walls of that apartment showed all that the finest workmanship could show.
In it were finely painted seven forms, each one connected with a certain Clime:
Fūrak, of India’s Rājā daughter, first, in face more lovely than the moon when full.
(Then) Yaghmā-Nāz, the Khāqān’s daughter fair, disturber of Tarāz and China’s belles.
The king of Khvārazm’s daughter Nāz-Parī, graceful as mountain-partridge in her gait.
The king of Saqlāb’s daughter Nasrīn-Nūsh, a Turk of Greek dress decked by Chinese art.
The king of Maghrib’s daughter Āẕar-Gūn, a sun like to the daily waxing moon.
The wisdom-gifted Qaiṣar’s daughter, next, august, and named Humāy, Bird August.
The Kisrá’s daughter of Kā’ūs’s race, named Dursitī, and ḥūrī-like in grace.
Within one circle by a cord hung up these seven had been all together limned.
In each of them were countless beauties (seen) to light the essence of the light of sight.
A face was limned so handsome in the midst that ’twas as kernel, whilst the rest were shell.
A parrot on his sugar plumes had dropped, and “galia” o’er his moon had drawn a line.
His head exalted like a cypress’s; his crown was (formed) of silver, gold, and gems.
Towards him were turned these seven beauties’ eyes; each one had given her heart to love of him.
He giving to those beauties pleasant smiles; they all before him (as) devoted slaves.
The painter of his face and form had writ above his head the name of Bahrām Gūr;(Adding), Such is the Seven Planets’ rule that this world-conqueror, when he appears,
Shall take like precious pearls unto his breast seven monarchs’ daughters from the Seven Climes.
We have not sown this seed (know) of ourselves; we’ve written what the planets have declared.
Twas writ, I’ve spoken, that he might observe the formula, but God it is who acts.
Prince Bahrām having read this strange account, remained in wonder at the heavens’ spells.
The love of those fair girls (in picture seen) completely and entirely filled his heart.
Libidine percitis equabus et equo vehementia rapto; a lion-like young man and seven brides—
Should not desire to gain one’s wish be great? Should not the heart cry out to gain its aim?
Although that formula made fierce attack, his joy (at once) increased a hundredfold,
Since it ensured a long and happy life, and gave him hope of gaining his desire.—
For the conciliation of a man all that which makes him hopeful has effect.—
When the prince left the room he locked it up, and gave the key to its custodian.
He said, If I should hear that anyone (dare) for a moment (to) unlock this door,
I’ll have his blood shed even in this room: I’ll have his head suspended from his neck.
In all the household, man or woman, none (dared ever) give a glance towards that room.
From time to time when overcome with love, the prince went towards that door (with) key in hand.
The door he opened, entered paradise, and on those finely painted pictures gazed.
Before the water there like one athirst, in longing for it he would fall asleep.
Whilst he was out his wish was for the chase, that room, on his return, his solacer.

Neẓāmi Ganjavi,1141-1209 Haft Peykar, 1197 AD (The Seven Portraits)

Haft Peykar (The Seven Beauties) containing the life and adventures of King Bahrām Gūr and the seven stories told him by his seven queens by Nizami of Ganja (Neẓāmi Ganjavi) Translated from the Persian by C.E. Wilson.

Editor’s Note: The Haft Peykar‎‎ or, The Seven Beauties, is also known as Bahramnameh  (The Book of Bahrām). Haft Peykar can be translated literally as ‘seven portraits’ with the figurative meaning of seven beauties. It tells the story of a Prince, later King Bahrām, and his pursuits of hunting, love, and other adventures in 4367 (or 5136) rhyming couplets. The story of a Prince enraptured by the portraits of the Princesses is a bride-show topos, a custom of Byzantine emperors, where the hero chooses a wife from among the most beautiful maidens of the country. The setting is widely found in traditional folk-tales and myths including Sanskrit, Indian, Icelandic, Middle english, Medieval Latin, Danish, Breton, German, Indonesian, Chinese, and Japanese. The topos occurs in the story of Ibrahim and Jamileh in the Thousand and One Nights, where the son of Egypt’s vizier sees a portrait of a woman in a book and is so infatuated he is unable to eat or sleep. The topos appears in other works by Neẓāmi Ganjavi in Sharaf-namah (a part of Iskandar-nameh) where the Persian Queen, Nushabah, is passionately in love with a likeness of Alexander the Great. While in the story of Khusraw and Shirin, the Armenian Queen Shirin is so obsessed by a portrait of Khusraw that she holds it and quivers so that her maidens are afraid for her, and so they destroy the image. She snatches another picture and worships it like an idol. The erotic and emotional power of the picture was popular, in spite of Islamic and Christian strictures against human images.

In this episode Bahrām wanders around Khavarnaq castle where he finds a secret room. Inside he finds seven portraits, of the daughters of the Kings of India, Byzantium, Chorasmia, Sclavonia, Maghreb, China and Persia, who serendipitously all look devotedly at a portrait of Bahr that hangs on the wall. The Prince falls in love with the images and returns often to the room where he “entered paradise, and on those finely painted pictures gazed. Before the water there like one athirst”. Once he becomes King he seeks the seven princesses and wins them as his brides. He orders his architect to construct seven domes to house his new wives. The craftsman tells him that each of the climes is ruled by one of the seven planets and advises him to assure his good fortune by adorning each dome with the color associated with the clime and planet of its occupant. The king is at first sceptical but eventually lets the architect have his way. The princesses take up residence in the splendid pavilions. The king visits each princess on successive days of the week: on Saturday the Indian princess, who is governed by Saturn, in the black dome, on Sunday the Greek princess, who is governed by the sun, in the yellow dome, and so on. Each princess regales the king with a story matching the mood of her respective colour. These seven beautifully constructed, highly sensuous stories occupy about half of the whole poem. Source:

1. Bahr and the Indian Princess in the Black Pavilion. llustrated folio from a manuscript of the Khamsa (Haft Paykar) by Nizami. Persian, Safavid period, Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, 40.2 x 26.2 cm, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
2. Bahr Visits the White Domed Pavilion. Persian. Part of Khamsa of Nizami, Haft Paykar Seven Portraits, Manuscript. 1560. Cleveland Museum of Art
3. Bahr Visits the Dome of Piruza on Wednesday. Page from the Haft Paykar, from a manuscript of Nizanmi, Brooklyn Museum
4. Bahr sees the portraits of the seven beauties. Behzad School, 1479. Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature


Oscar Wilde – The Artist,1894

oscar wilde portrait

ONE evening there came into his soul the desire to fashion an image of The Pleasure that Abideth for a Moment. And he went forth into the world to look for bronze. For he could think only in bronze.

But all the bronze of the whole world had disappeared, nor anywhere in the whole world was there any bronze to be found, save only the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that Endureth For Ever.

Now this image he had himself, and with his own hands, fashioned, and had set it on the tomb of the one thing he had loved in life. On the tomb of the dead thing he had most loved had he set this image of his own fashioning, that it might serve as a sign of the love of man that dieth not, and a symbol of the sorrow of man that endureth for ever. And in the whole world there was no other bronze save the bronze of this image.

And he took the image he had fashioned, and set it in a great furnace, and gave it to the fire.

And out of the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that Endureth For Ever he fashioned an image of The Pleasure that Abideth for a Moment.


Oscar Wilde, 1856-1900. The Artist, from, Poems in Prose,1894

Image: Portrait of Oscar Wilde,1892. Photographer: Napoleon Sarony

Robert Hughes (Junius Secundus) – The SoHoiad: Or, the Masque of Art: a Satire in Heroic couplets Drawn from Life,1984


Close by the Hudson, in MANHATTAN’S TOWN,
The iron palaces of Art glare down
On such as, wandering in the streets below,
Perambulate in glamorous SoHo,
A spot acclaimed by savant and by bard
As forcing-chamber of the Avant-Garde.
‘Tis there, dread DULNESS dwells in sweats and glooms,
Gnaws her brown nails, and shakes her sable plumes;
FRIVOLITY extends her flittering hand
O’er the distracted, fashionable band,
And YOUTH sustains its present coalition
‘Twixt vaulting Arrogance and blind Ambition,
Whilst rubbing shoulders with the newly-great,
Impartially selling Smack and Real Estate.
Such is the spot for Apodictick Rhyme,
The Gadfly, yet the Mirror, of its time.

Now at thy hands, great CHAOS! are restored
The brief and foolish pleasures of the bored:
The pompous novelty, the well-hyp’d trick
Delivered in the merest Augenblick.
The patronage of younger talent there
(A favoured sport) is flinging Eggs in Air
To mark if they will fly; and when they fall,
As fall they do, it matters not at all:
The temper of the age decrees at once
That none may tell the Dancer from the Dunce.
Opinion bows and scrapes, to Trade defers,
As Disco-Owners turn to Connoisseurs;
Historians to the urinous subway fly
To scribble theses on ‘The Spraying Eye’;
From Kutztown and the Bronx graffitists throng
To find, though Art is short, Reviews are long;
Our purblind Virtuosi now embrace
The spraycans hiss, the ghetto-blaster shrieks,
Above the clamour, DOLORES GRUESOME speaks:
“My pa-in-law became a millionaire
From unguents to straighten Negroes’ hair:
A generation later, I have come
To bring a new cosmetic to the slum.
In this fat piping time of cultural plenty
Art sheds its bloom when it is over 20:
Ripeness is staleness: Connoisseurs, behold
Th’apotheosis of the Twelve-Year-Old!
My Noble Savages, on sneakered feet,
Flock to the doors of Fifty-Seventh Street;
The infant dauber, whom MAYOR KOCH appalls,
Now sprays on Belgian Flax instead of walls;
The matrons twitter and the Cash-Bell rings,
I serve Hawaiian Punch and Chicken-Wings,
The fame of my invention spreads afar—
Part day-care center, part Bateau-Lavoir.”

With corybantic dance and Bacchic cry
Th’infatuate procession passes by:
And now the hybrid child of Hubris comes—
JULIAN SNORKEL, with his ten fat thumbs!
Ad Nauseam, he babbles, whines and Prates
Of Death and Life, Careers and Broken Plates
(The larger subjects for the smaller brain)
And as his victims doze, he rants again—
Poor SoHo’s cynosure, the dealer’s dream,
Much wind, slight talent, and vast self-esteem.

“Shall I compare me to Picasso? Yes!
Within me, VAN GOGH’s vision, nothing less,
Is wedded to the genius of TITIAN
And mixed promiscuously, without permision,
With several of BOB RAUSCHENBERG’S devices.
The Market’s fixed to underwrite my prices—
Compared to my achievement, JACKSON POLLOCK’S
Is nothing but a load of passé bollocks;
My next show goes by Concorde to the Prado:
‘Painter as Hero: Snorkel, Leonardo.’
Yet the comparison’s a trifle spotty,
Since Leo says I’m heir to BUONAROTTI.
Though those old Guineas knew a thing or three,
They’d certainly know more if they’d known me

Robert Hughes,1938-2012 (Junius Secundus).
The SoHoiad: Or, the Masque of Art: a Satire in Heroic couplets Drawn from Life,1984.  The New York Review of Books, March 29, 1984

Robert Hughes was art critic of Time magazine, and  The SoHoiad, is a mock-heroic satire on the vanity and hubris of the New York contemporary art scene in the early 1980s, written as a parody of Alexander Pope`s The Dunciad. Hughes’ poetic art criticism targeted the limited talents and shallowness of the triad of art, money and self-promotion embodied in the art of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and, in particular, Julian Schnabel.

The full text of The SoHoiad is published in Robert Hughes, Nothing if Not Critical, Selected Essays on Art and Artists. Published in 1990 by Collins Harvill, in Great Britain; and Alfred A Knopf, Inc, in the United States.