Central Asian miniature painting
This can largely be accounted for by the enormous role of the great literature of Central Asia in the spiritual life of its peoples the role of its poetry, prose, and even its historical chronicles, not reduced to enumerating bare facts but written in florid style typical of fiction. The romantic spirit of miniature painting was in perfect harmony with the artistic design of handwritten books. Putting out an Oriental manuscript calls for a vast variety of masters, such as calligraphers, ornamentalists, book binders and, in case of jubilee editions, even miniature painters. It is noteworthy, that be it an authentic historical event or an episode from classical literature, the miniature-painter usually dresses his figures like his own contemporaries, and places them in the environment of his own days, which makes it easy for the investigator to identify the hand of the painter and the period when he lived. From historical documents we have come to know the names of some prominent miniaturists who worked at Timur's court in Samarkand at the turn of the fourteenth century. Those enjoying special fame were Abd-al Khaya, master, brought from Bagdad in 1393 and appointed head of the Samarkand art workshops (only copies of his miniatures have reached us), and Pir Ahmad Baghi Shamali.


Fragment. Mural painting. The Red Hall.
Fragment. Mural painting. The Red Hall. Varakhsha. 7th 8th century


Two miniatures on the short-lived reign of the young prince Ilalil Sultan (14051409) pertain to the early Timurid Samarkand. The one entered into the volume of papers of the Timurid Chancellery (from the Yyldyz Library in Istanbul), depicts Halil Sultan defending Samarkand (see pl. 2). The other, glued into a later copy of the Golden Chains by Jami (SPL, Dorn, 432) is a hunting scene out in the mountains. Some scientists classify it as a Herat painting of the sixties-seventies of the fifteenth century, without stating why, whereas in the view of others the general style, the type of landscape, and some representational details, for example, a lion and the sun on the tzar banner, characteristic of the Halil Sultan coinage, is an indication of the beginning of the fifteenth century and its belonging to the Central Asian art school. The very style of the miniature, as well as its vast, yet somewhat dark range of colours, and specific circular composition, largely differ from the Herat and Shiraz schools of the fifteenth century. Its exclusive mastery indicates that it was painted by some outstanding Samarkand miniaturist of the beginning of the century possibly by Pir Ahmad Baghi Shamali.

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