The zodiac man. Watercolour painting by a Persian artist.

[between 1800 and 1899?]
Part of:
Alexandrian series.
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About this work


Diagram comparable to the "six picture series" or "Alexandrian series" pasted or bound in Persian manuscripts of the "Zakhīrah-i Khvārazm’Shāhī" ("Treasure of Khvārazm’Shāhī") written by al-Jurjani (Ismā‘īl ibn Muḥammad al-Ḥusayn Jurjānī) ca. 1110 AD, and the "Tashrīḥ-i Mansur-i" ("Anatomy of Mansur" written by Manṣūr ibn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Yūsuf Ibn Ilyā, ca. 1390 AD

As the scholar Karl Sudhoff wrote in 1924, "Astrological theory in the Middle Ages occupied somewhat the same position that Evolution does in modern times". It intertwined with so many working hypotheses that scheduling of everyday activities such as house-building, marriage and medication would become purely arbitrary without the control provided by planetary movements. The present watercolour is a diverting translation of the zodiacal rules into pictorial form. It shows which signs are related to which parts of the body: Ares (March) to the head, Taurus (April) to the neck, Gemini (May) to the arms and hands, Cancer (June) to the thorax, etc. In those months, one was ill-advised to apply medicines to the associated organs, though there might be countervailing arguments strong enough to overrule the implications of the zodiac. In addition to their associations with given months and organs, the zodiacal signs also had "qualities" which were also relevant: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn had the qualities combining the hot and the dry, while Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces had the qualities combining the cold and the wet. Subtle minds would consider all the implications and associations of the zodiacal signs, while the unsubtle would use them as rules of thumb and follow them uncritically. It is notable that the sign Gemini is shown as conjoined ("Siamese") twins


[Iran], [between 1800 and 1899?]

Physical description

1 painting : watercolour, with pen and ink ; image 31.3 x 21.2 cm


Persian annotations on the image

References note

K. Sudhoff, The Fasciculus medicinae of Johann de Ketham, alemanus. Facsimile of the first (Venetian) edition of 1491, Milan: R. Lier, 1924, p. 49 (on the iconography)
Venise et l'Orient 828-1797, Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 2006, p. 299 no. 14 and p. 69

Exhibitions note

Exhibited in “Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine” at Wellcome Collection, 16 November 2017 – 8 April 2018


Wellcome Collection 582971i



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