The Book of Felicity

The Book of Felicity f. 88v, The Talisman of the Red King


f. 88v, The Talisman of the Red King

The Red King (melik ahmar) is the lord of the red planet, Mars, the color red, the metal copper and the angel Samsama’il.
The association with the planet Mars is particularly evident in this painting, where the demon is depicted as a creature holding a long sword and a severed head, exactly like the most common iconography of the planet (see ff. 8v, 12v, 16v). The Red King sits astride a lion that seems to be overwhelmed by the giant size and weight of the demon, for its tongue hangs from its mouth and its tail is between its legs. The jinn has dark brown skin, pointed ears and two extraordinary flaming eyes. In this case he has three attendants, one touching his right elbow and the one above him holding a horse’s leg.
The iconography of the Red King is one of the most interesting of this group especially when compared to two illustrations in the Kitab al-mawalid in the Bibliothèque nationale de France mentioned earlier (BnF, Arabe 2564). In that instance, on f. 3v, the demon is depicted as a frontal figure with multiple heads, the only common attribute being the sword in his hand. However, another illustration on f. 2v shows a second jinn called Tarish sitting on a lion and biting the body of a snake. Tarish is not present in the Kitab al-bulhan nor in the Ottoman copies, but the image of the Red King seems to incorporate his attributes too.

Stefano Carboni
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Curatorial Assistant in Islamic Art
 (Fragment of the Book of Felicity commentary volume)

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