Ibn Bakhtīshū
(d. 1058)


Manāfi˓-i ḥayavān (The Benefits of Animals), in Persian, for Shams al-Dīn Ibn Ẓiyā˒ al-Dīn al-Zūshkī

Persia, Maragha
Between 1297 and 1300
185 x 235mm

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1912

MS M.500, fol. 16v
Item description: 

This illustration appears in the great Persian manuscript Manāfi˓-i ḥayavān (The Benefits of Animals). The camel's forelegs are too short, suggesting that the artist's model was too large to fit the available space, and its head has a strange pompadour of hair, perhaps to compensate for the short legs. According to the text the camel is revengeful and thus has a good memory. They conceive in February, have a twelve-month gestation period, and hate the company of horses, as they always fight. Different parts of the camel were used medicinally. Its hump, for example, is good for dysentary; melted and mixed with chive juice it relieves the pain caused by piles.

Exhibition section: 

Natural History and Astrology
The miniatures presented here derive primarily from two extraordinary Islamic manuscripts that depict the natural world and the heavens. The first, Manāfi˓-i hayavān (The Benefits of Animals), is considered one of the ten greatest surviving Persian manuscripts. It dates from the reign of Ghazan Khan (1295–1304), the Mongol ruler who ordered a Persian translation of the book, and concerns the nature and medicinal properties of humans, animals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. The other, Matāli˓ al-sa˓āda wa manābi˓ al-siyāda (The Ascension of Propitious Stars and Sources of Sovereign), was commissioned by Sultan Murād III (r. 1574–95), an Ottoman ruler deeply interested in astronomy, cosmology, demonology, poetry, and mysticism.