Medieval Islamic Painting of a Queen Giving Birth


Birth scene from al-Hariri’s Maqamat, painting by Yahya ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti (13th century)

Doula Nicole D’s birth blog contains a fascinating list of birth images on.  One of the images that I came across there is this birth scene, a painting by the medieval Islamic artist, Yahya ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti who was known for his illustrations of the well known Maqamat (the Discourses, or short stories about two principle characters) written by the Iraqi poet, al-Hariri (1054-1122).

This painting, which depicts a queen giving birth in the care of female attendants, is highly helpful in the visualization of birth.  The squatting position used by the queen encourages birth through the utilization of gravity to help baby along the birth canal.  Other images of this position may be seen elsewhere on Visualizing Birth (see here, here, and here).  Apparently well into the birth process, the queen also looks on serenely, reminding the viewer that birth need not be a fearful experience.  Although birth may involve pain and other strong sensations, these sensations are not necessarily connected to fear in the laboring woman.  As explored by the 20th century British Obstetrician and natural birth advocate, Grantly Dick-Read, fear (as opposed to pain) may be an impediment during the process of birth.