Yusuf and Zulaikha Rug, The Yusuf and Zulaikha Story
Persian pictorial handmade rugs feature a variety of religious and historical scenes and figures, including the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha, Potiphar’s wife, which appears in the Quran and Hebrew Bible and in many Persian miniature paintings. Yusef is a slave of Potiphar, a captain in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s guard, and Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him, but she fails. Upset and vengeful, she falsely accuses Yusuf of trying to rape her, which results in Yusuf’s imprisonment. The version of this story that appears on Persian rugs is inspired by a medieval Islamic version of this story written in Persian by Jami (1414–1492) that appears in his Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones).
Jami’s Sufi interpretation of this narrative is that Zulaikha’s love for Yusuf can illustrate how the soul strives to reach God: it is through physical love for a person that one comes to understand in an analogous manner the striving to find God on a spiritual level. Beautiful Rugs has an elegant and stunning, contemporary, pictorial Tabriz silk rug made from wool and silk that shows a scene from the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha. It is rendered with fine lines and light, pastel colors, showing Zulaikha standing, awestruck with love by Yusuf’s beauty and charm when she first sees him from a palace portal. A symbolic and stylized yellow fire of desire burns behind her shoulders and head. She is surrounded by a dozen or more noble women who all stare at her, but she seems not to notice them. Zulaikha wears a flowing light blue robe, the other women bright yellow robes, and the border area is golden yellow with fine line renderings of a bird and deer and an arabesque floral design.