Painting in Bustan
Yusuf seduced by Zulaykha in a fairytale palace
story by Gabrielle van den Berg
A man with a fiery halo, a woman grabbing at his dress in a luxurious building with many doors and stairs. The man is the virtuous Yusuf, sold into slavery in Egypt. The woman is the Egyptian lady Zulaykha, who is madly in love with him. She has locked him inside her palace and shamelessly forces herself upon him, begging him to follow her in sin. Will she succeed? The Persian text intricately woven into the painting ends with Yusuf’s despair – if only we could turn the page. Is this a 15th century depiction of an all too familiar stereotype, male virtue tainted by female deceit? Yes and no: and this painting, inadvertently or on purpose, reflects precisely that.