Persian miniature painting on a tile, earthenware under coloured glazes, probably from Isfahan, 17th century CE.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The so-called 'garden scenes' are among the most typical settings in the Persian literary tradition of romantic fables. The popular format features a young prince (sometimes bearing a historical identity) falling in love with a fine maiden (occasionally also of a royal descendant but often from an inferior background) in a glance at her picture or by simply hearing about her unique and mesmerising beauty. Since she is often difficult to reach, secluded or under a spell in an unknown, remote land, the story continues with the challenges faced and overcome by the prince to find her.
The garden scene depicted here shows, most likely, the happy ending of the lovers' final reunion. The prince is courting the princess on his knees, offering her a piece of silk or another gold-thread fabric (zari) that was common as a bridal gift but not without erotic connotations. His companions, distinguished by their royal blue outfits like his, support his cause through reciting love poems (the young man sitting behind him with wine-drinking vessels as integral parts of the Persian poetry) and bringing fruits and rose-water perfume. The princess and her maid, both in yellow, carry wine jars suggestive of their already ecstatic minds. The surrounding hills and mountains in the background represent the long and difficult route the young lover must have travelled through, whilst pine-, willow- and platanus trees present their integration into the Iranian botanical as well as artistic landscapes.