The story is a romance, written in Arabic, focusing on the love of Bayad, a merchant's son, for Riyad, a well educated slave girl in the court of an unnamed Hajib (vizier or minister) and his daughter, referred to simply as the Lady. The story is narrated by an old woman called 'the Old'. Bayad is from Syria and the Old Woman is from Babylon but it is thought that the setting is an Andalusian city - perhaps Seville, or possibly North Africa.
Captions in transliterated Arabic and Italian:
f. 1r: "[...ṣūrat] al-ḥāǧib wa huwa [qad] ǧalasa [...] maahu wa ṣūrat al-[...]at wāqifatan ([...immagine del] ciambellano seduto [...] insieme a lui e immagine di [...] ferma in piedi);
f. 2v, "ṣūrat al-aǧūz tūṣī Bayāḍan wa tuḥaḏḏiruhu" (immagine della Vecchia che consiglia Bayāḍ e lo mette in guardia);
f. 3v, "ṣūrat Riyāḍ qad ġuiya alayhā wa-l-ḫadam yanḍaḥna waǧhahā bi-mā al-ward wa-l-kāfūr wa-l-aǧūz maahunna wa ṣūratal-qaṣr" (immagine di Riyāḍ svenuta e delle ancelle che le aspergono il viso con acqua di rose e canfora, la Vecchia stando con loro, e immagine del palazzo);
f. 4v, "ṣūrat umūl tuġannī fī-l-ūd bayn yaday al-sayyida fī-l-ḥadīqa wa ṣūratal-waṣāif wa-l-aǧūz maahunna tasmau" (immagine di umūl che suona il liuto nel giardino al cospetto della sua Signora e immagine delle damigelle e della Vecchia che ascolta insieme a loro);
f. 9r, "ṣūrat Riyāḍ tuġannī fī-l-ūd amāma al-sayyida fī-l-bustān wa ṣūrat Bayāḍ wa-l-aǧūz wa ǧamī al-waṣāif" (immagine di Riyāḍ che suona il liuto nel giardino davanti alla Signora e immagine di Bayāḍ , della Vecchia e di tutte le damigelle);
f. 9v, "ṣūrat Bayāḍ tuġannī fī-l-ūd amāma al-sayyida wa ḫadamihā" (immagine di Bayāḍ che suona il liuto al cospetto della Signora e del suo seguito);
f. 13r, "ṣūrat al-sayyida tukallimu al-'aǧūz fī amr Riyāḍ wa Riyāḍ wāqifatan 'alà al-ṣarīǧ wa damuhā yasīlu 'alà waǧhihā"
f. 15r, "ṣūrat al-aǧūz tuātibu Bayāḍan" (imagine della Vecchia che rimprovera Bayāḍ);
f. 17r, "ṣūrat umūl tukallimu Bayāḍan wa huwa bi-qurbi al-ḥadīqa alà al-nahr wa tarfau ilayhi kitāb Riyāḍ" (immagine di umūl che parla a Bayāḍ che si trova nei pressi del giardino sul fiume e lei gli porge una lettera di Riyāḍ);
f. 18v/19r, "ṣūrat Bayāḍ alà waǧhihi muġiyan alayhi// alà āṭi al-nahr wa ṣūrat al-fatà qarīb al-aǧūz qad waqafa alayhi yarṯīhi wa yandubuhu wa humā bi-izā bustān min basātīn nahr al-Ṯarṯār" (immagine di Bayāḍ riverso su se stesso, svenuto sulla sponda del fiume e immagine del giovane parente della Vecchia che si ferma accanto a lui compiangendolo e facendogli lelogio funebre, entrambi si trovano davanti a uno dei giardini del fiume Ṯarṯār);
f. 22r, "ṣūrat Bayāḍ maa al-niswa fī-l-dār wa qad dafa na ilayhi kitāb Riyāḍ", (immagine di Bayāḍ insieme alle donne, nella casa, mentre gli consegnano la lettera di Riyāḍ);
f. 26v, "ṣūrat Riyāḍ qad saǧadat bayn yaday sayyidatihā wa wa ṣūrat al-aǧūz wa-l-waṣāif yanẓurna ilayhā" (immagine di Riyāḍ prostrata al cospetto della sua Signora e immagine della Vecchia e delle ancelle che la osservano);
f. 27v, "ṣūrat Bayāḍ yalabu bi-l-aṭranǧ maa qarīb al-aǧūz wa ṣūrat al-aǧūz qad daḫalat alayhimā" (immagine di Bayāḍ che gioca a scacchi col parente della Vecchia e immagine della Vecchia che fece loro visita);
f. 28r, "ṣūrat al-aǧūz qad daḫalat alà Bayāḍ fī manzilihā fa-waǧadathu nāiman fa-qaadat inda rasihi tuniduhu al-abyāt" (immagine della Vecchia che fece visita a Bayāḍ in casa sua e, trovatolo addormentato, si siede accanto alla sua testa e gli recita i versi);
f. 31r, (Bayāḍ che gioca a scacchi col parente della Vecchia e la Vecchia).
f. 1r. Frontispiece
f. 9r. Image of Riyadh playing the lute in the garden in front of the image of Lady and Bayad, the Old and all the bridesmaids.
f. 10r. Image of Bayad playing the lute in the presence of the Lady and her entourage.
f. 13r The Lady (alsayyida) who speaks with the Old (al-'aguz) and Riyadh
f. 15r Imagine of the Old scolding Bayad
f. 17r. Image of Sumul who speaks to Bayad who is near the garden on the river and she hands him a letter from Riyadh.
f. 19r. Image of Bayad lying, passed out, on the bank of the river and image of the young relative of the Old who stops beside his companion and gives a funeral eulogy, both located in front of one of the gardens of the River Tartar.
f. 22r. Image of Bayad together with the women in the house, while delivering the letter of Riyadh
f. 26v. Image of Riyadh prostrate in front of her Lady and image of the Old and the maids who look on.
f. 31r. Image of Bayad playing chess with a relative of the Old (the qarib) and image of the Old who visited them.
This manuscript, which is incomplete, is comprised of thirty folios and fourteen miniatures. It is a romance about the love of Bayād, son of a merchant from Damascus, for Riyād, a singer and the favourite slave of the Hājib. Other characters enter the tale such as The Old Woman, who plays a role equivalent to that of the go-between in the literature of the Late Middle Ages, and Hājib's daughter Sayyida.
Returning from Damascus, Bayād sees Riyād near the river and falls in love with her. The Old Woman takes him under her wing and arranges for the two youths to meet each other. During this meeting, Riyād also falls madly in love. As the young woman is the Hājib's favourite, The Old Woman tries to dissuade Bayād from pursuing his love. Bayād, however, succeeds in persuading The Old Woman to set up another meeting, during which Riyād foolishly declares her love. Sayyida, furious, locks her up. The Old Woman manages to hide Bayād by taking him in. The two lovers then begin a long correspondence. Unfortunately, as parts of the manuscript were destroyed, we will never know the beginning or the end of the story.
Almohad period, 13th century
11⅛ x 7⅞in. (28.2 x 20cm)
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome Vat. Ar. 368
Among the very few illustrated manuscripts from al-Andalus that have survived, Ḥadīth Bayāḍ wa Riyāḍ has no equal. The illustrations, with their graceful lines, elegant forms, refined details, and carefully studied compositions, testify to the presence in medieval al Andalus of an advanced tradition of miniature painting about which we know almost nothing.
The manuscript is extensively illustrated; fourteen of its miniatures have survived. Though its beginning and end are missing, not much of the story seems to be lost. The narrative tells of a young merchant called Bayāḍ who falls in love with a handmaiden named Riyāḍ. She is under the control of al-Ḥājib, a chamberlain who has his own amorous interest in her. This presents complications for Bayāḍ, but he finds a good listener in an old woman who soon becomes his go-between and adviser. She arranges for the two lovers to meet at a majlis ghināʾ (get-together) organized by the Lady of the Palace, the daughter of al-Ḥājib; the lovers sing and play the lute, declaring their passion (folio 10r). This upsets the Lady of the Palace, who is apprehensive that her father will find out about Bayāḍ and Riyāḍ; she orders that Riyāḍ be kept in a separate house, where she is left alone to cry and pine. Meanwhile, Bayāḍ is seen wandering, talking to himself, and fainting (folio 19r). Eventually letters are exchanged between the lovers (folio 17r), and the old woman arranges a reconciliation between Riyāḍ and the Lady of the Palace (folio 26v), who finally decides to bring Bayāḍ and Riyāḍ 'together, whatever the consequences; the old woman is told to "go home and wait for my messenger." For two long months nothing happens; then one day, when the coast is clear, the Lady of the Palace sends ten of her servants, wearing their veils. The old woman disguises Bayāḍ so that eleven veiled women return to the palace, where Riyāḍ is waiting. The story, similar to tales found in the famous One Thousand and One Nights, includes such elements essential to this well-known literary genre as the lovers who are both fluent poets and a wise and cunning old woman who plays their go-between.
The style of the miniatures displays clear similarities with manuscripts from Syria and eastern Mesopotamia of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, especially in the compositional elements, the arrangement of the figures, and the rendering of the trees. The integral relationship between the text and the miniatures is revealed in the specific scenes chosen for the miniatures; the incidents depicted reflect a sensitivity to the nature of the narrative. Islamic Spain, with its flourishing gardens and running waters, was a particularly favorable context for love and the celebration of beauty. We notice that six of the miniatures in the manuscript are set outdoors, and in all of these greenery, and sometimes water, can be seen.
In this manuscript love is portrayed as a sickness, the symptoms of which are no sleep, no eating, sighing, wandering, and, especially, fainting. Occasional sleep would only be sought in the hope of seeing the beloved in one's dreams:
It is significant that the Hispano-Muslim Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064 [A.H. 384-457]), a man of politics, law, and philosophy, compiled Ṭawq al-Ḥamāma at the request of a friend who had written to him from Almeria, asking that he compose a book on the actual characteristics of love, its meaning, and its reasons. In Ḥadīth Bayāḍ wa Riyāḍ we are presented with precisely the same conception of love as described by Ibn Ḥazm: a belief that love is not man's creation since (the hearts are in the hands of the Almighty God).2I did not sleep to rest but in the hope that my
beloved would appear.1
It has already been pointed out that Ḥadīth Bayāḍ wa Riyāḍ should be attributed to a center where weaving was important, such as Granada or Seville, because of its close resemblance to a group of textiles.3 Several other details connect this manuscript to Seville. The motif that decorates the headgear of al-Ḥajib's daughter (folio 10r), for example, can be found in the illumination of a Qurʾan (No. 80) produced in Seville in 1227 (A.H. 624).
Moreover, the architecture depicted, which plays an important role in the miniatures, can easily be identified as that of al-Andalus. Elements such as the double windows, the horseshoe arches, and the peaked roofs are clearly Islamic features. Closer inspection reveals specific elements that can be found in Almohad architecture. A rather unusual three-lobed arch in the palace (folio 19r) has its equivalent not only in the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria la Real de Huelgas in Burgos (the building was probably originally erected by the Almohads in 1189 [A.H. 585]) but also in the Kutubiyya mosque in Marrakesh (begun 1146 [A.H. 541]). The decoration of the window grilles within the miniatures is obviously a simplification of the decorative diaper of indented lozenges frequently found in Almohad buildings. Other features in the miniatures, such as the three-quarter corbels supporting the projecting balconies and the pattern of construction based on alternating pairs of vertical and horizontal blocks (folio 10r), can also be found in Almohad architecture.
The manuscript is written in a type of Maghribi script that in its style of handwriting, general layout, and colors used in the text bears a great similarity to the calligraphy in two manuscripts from al-Andalus, one of which is dated 1240 (A. H. 638).4 Given this relationship in addition to those mentioned above, Ḥadīth Bayāḍ wa Riyāḍ must have been produced in one of the leading Almohad cities, most likely Seville, in the early thirteenth century.
by S.K., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
1. Ḥadīth Bayāḍ wa Riyāḍ, folio 20.
2. Ibn Ḥazm 1982, p. 60, Arabic text.
3. Ettinghausen and Grabar 1987, p. 163, pl. 142. For the textiles, see also May 1957, figs. 40, 91, 92.
4. One of these is a copy of the anthology of Abū'l-ʿAlaʾ al-Maʿarri (1240 [A.H. 638]), now in the Bibliothèque Royale in Morocco (N. 802); the other manuscript from al-Andalus, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Tunis (ʿAbd al-Wahāb 18656,3; Chabbouh 1989, p. 43· pl. 71), is also an anthology. Although not dated, "it is attributed to the thirteenth century and contains an appendix in which the name Seville can be deciphered. It is not clear whether Seville indicates the place where a reading of the anthology took place or where the manuscript was compiled; nevertheless, a connection with Seville, the Almohad capital, is definitely established.
LITERATURE: Levi della Vida 1935, p. 39; Monneret de Villard 1941; Nykl 1941; Ettinghausen 1962, pp. 128, 162 , pls. pp. 126-27, 129; Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler 1973, p. 266, pl. 202, pl. XXXVII; Ettinghausen and Grabar 1987, p. 163, pls. 143-45.