In a red world bathed in shimmering gold light, a man sits with his head in his hand as wild beasts encircle him. He is emaciated, has unkempt hair, and wears only a waistcloth — but he has a dreamy smile on his face. Nearby, a camel bears a palanquin carrying a stately woman, her head tipped to one side, arm outstretched from the window of her traveling abode toward her lover. Beneath her, the signature ‘Work of Ghiyath’ is woven in Kufic script inside an eight-pointed star on the palanquin. This depiction of the literary characters Layla and Majnun is one of a small group of figural textiles from the cache of fine luxury silks produced in Safavid Iran (1501-1722 CE). The red lampas metal-ground silk resides in the permanent collection of the Textile Museum in Washington.

Read More: Donning the Cloak, by Nazanin Hedayat Shenasa