Primary Source

Maqamat al-Hariri, Garden Scene by al-Wasiti [Painting]


The image by 13th–century illustrator al-Wasiti (fl. 1237) is from the Maqamat (Assemblies), a collection of stories of a picaresque hero. In the upper half of the illustration, a boy in a short tunic and cap with tiraz embroidered bands, leads animals yoked to the saqiyya, a geared water-raising device that irrigated fields and gardens. The boy grasps the tail of the animal and carries a switch as the animals pace around the circle, turning the wheel to raise the water. The water flows into the lower part of the illustration, where guests sit in a garden around a basin and decorative fountain, listening to poetry and music accompanied by a lute. Baghdad had many garden suburbs along the canals, so this scene reflects urban as well as rural social life. The social class of the boy is likely beneath that of the group attending the social gathering. He might be the son of the family who cultivated the land, or a servant. The author, al-Hariri (1054-1122 CE), is an important figure in Arabic literature. The illustrations belong to the Baghdad School of miniature illustration, and were popular even in al-Wasiti's time, depicting dynamic scenes of life within the small space of the page.


Scene in a garden of Baghdad, illustration by Yahyā ibn Mahmūd al-Wāsitī (fl. 1237) from the 24th Maqama of al-Hariri, signed and dated Baghdad 1237, Bibioteque Nationale, Paris; MS ar. 5847 f. 69, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

How to Cite This Source

"Maqamat al-Hariri, Garden Scene by al-Wasiti [Painting]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #240, (accessed January 24, 2022). Annotated by Susan Douglass