Central Asian miniature painting
The reign in Maverannakhr of Ulugh Bek (1409 1449), the patron of all sciences, astronomy in particular, is marked by a prosperity of culture in Samarkand. Artists even had a street all to themselves, known as Ki Nak-kashon. Among the manuscripts done in Ulugh Bek's reign there was an important astronomy treatise by as-Sufi copied in Samarkand in 1437 (Paris, National Library), where every constellation is represented either like a human being or a real or imaginary animal, depending on the name it bears. Of specific interest is the miniature of the Freer Gallery, made in Samarkand in the year 144142, portraying the Ulugh Bek family on a falconry. This is not merely a remarkable historical document, representing a group portrait of Samarkand Timurids, it is also a brilliant work of art. The miniaturist is a man of superb creative mastery: his miniature is precise and distinct, the figures are properly proportional and in perfect keeping with the landscape. The miniature bears a strong resemblance to the Herat school paintings of the fifteenth century, yet, on the whole, it has a face entirely of its own. The elements that characterize its style are as follows: court life is usually depicted against the background of the natural steppe, the landscape is represented by very laconic means, the figures in the picture always have a large scale arrangement, the costumes and the household articles are decorated with typically Central Asian subtle details, etc. Dueto some of their pictorial features and Turkestan motifs, a number of 15th century miniatures fall outside the Herat or Western-Iranian cycle and are attributed with good reason to the Samarkand school. Among them are three miniatures from the Cair collection at London Horsmen in the Mountains, Courtiers on a Meadow, Sovereign feasting on a Lown. Also belonging to this group are illustrations to Nizami's Hamse at Topkapu-sarae (at Istanbul). Illustrations in this manuscript, which was copied during the reign of Ulugh Bek in 14461447, include in particular exquisite miniatures by Sultan Ali al-Bavardi, an artist of rich and dense colours and of masterly general compositions and figure grouping. Of special interest is the statute made up in the Timurid period the risola statute the guild of Central Asian Nakkashis painters. It includes a list of the most distinguished nakkashis of the Moslem Orient; together with painters from Balkha, Kashgar and Bagdad there is mention of master Ubaid from Bukhara, of Abdi Jalil from Tashkent and Jalal ad-din from Andijan.

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