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Elihu Vedder

(Illustration for Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám) The Cup of Death
about 1883
chalk, pencil, and ink
19 3/8 x 14 7/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase and gift from Elizabeth W. Henderson in memory of her husband Francis Tracy Henderson

The verses illustrated by Elihu Vedder were written by the twelfth-century Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyám. They acquired an ardent following among artists who sought spiritual and poetic values in a time of rampant materialism. The themes of fate, death, and the renewal of life were especially poignant for Vedder, who had recently experienced the death of two of his children and the birth of two more.