Central Asian miniature painting
Slightly isolated among the miniatures of the “provincial” trend is the cycle of Muhammad Murad Samarkandi (either born in Samarkand or its resident) to «Shah-nama», rewritten for the Khiva sovereign Ish-Muhammad in 1556—1557 (TOS AS UzSSR, N 1811), but illustrated, judging by the style, at the turn of the sixteenth century. Muhammad Murad's hand cannot be mistaken, his is a laconic and metaphoric language. Peculiar to his manner are small compositions, with few figures, stretched out horizontally and seemingly continuing “beyond the frames”; his contours are angular, asymmetric, his figures scattered; the colours of his miniatures reveal his individual perception of colour. Contrasted to the one-tone grey-purple or blue skyline are ochre or manganeze-red hills, most unexpected are flashes of silhouettes of black, pink horses and riders in bright attire. Other than the battle scenes customary to Oriental painting, where cut off heads constitute a part of the painting's design, with flowers and shields in the battle field, the battles in «Shah-nama» are viewed as a bloody, dramatic episode. Miniatures are a remarkable blend of imagination and symbolic representation on the one hand, of realism and documentary authenticity, on the other. The spirit of agitation, emotional tension, and tragedy of violent struggle are depicted in a very specific manner, aimed at penetrating into the depths of psychology, revealing it not by «pantomime of gestures alone, but also by the expression of the face, which reflects one's every emotion. Here too the hand of the master is seen — in the expression of the face, its foreshortening, its grimace, in the break of the eyebrows (ill. 28—32).
“Shah-nama” miniatures are a vivid denunciation of tyranny. For example, blacksmith Kave's revolt against Zokhak. He attaches his leather apron to a shaft and calls in his comrades-in-armes; the tightly-knit group of artisans is a symbol of people's unity and staunchness. The idea of overthrowing the despot and establishing a just form of rule is brought out in the episode when tzar Feridun, after throws off Zokhak after Kave's revolt, and is handed the baton (“Feridun on the throne”).

FEAST OF FEUDAL LORDS. Mural painting. The Black Hall. Penjikent. 7th-8th century
FEAST OF FEUDAL LORDS. Mural painting. The Black Hall. Penjikent. 7th-8th century

The works of Muhammad Murad Samarkandi are a most vivid and unique illustration of the specific nature of Central Asian miniatures of the «provincial» trend, of its democratic tendencies, representing peoples' struggle. Bukhara's art, under the immediate controle of the khan, tended to official-ceremonial style, which came into being in the thirties of the sixteenth century. The manuscripts made for Abd-al-Aziz (1540—1549), the son of Ubaidulla, later for Yar-Muhammad and Naurus-Akhmed who succeeded him, are a clear evidence of a steady craving for the classics of literature, as well as of the great merits of the metropolitan art school of the middle of the sixteenth century. Democratic elements are tangibly finding way into the art of the elite.
In 1545—1546 Mahmud Muzahhib, master of the Herat group, took part in a composition, the size of two open pages, “Sultan Sanjar and an Old Woman”, an illustration to Nizami's “Mystery Treasury” rewritten by Mir Ali in 1537 (National Library, Paris, Suppl. per. 985). The right side of the diptych shows a weaver, desperate, worn-out, cutting across a festive cavalcade in the hope of placating the kingly hunter. Young Sanjar's beauty, the ground covered with grasses in full bloom, the well-groomed courtiers, and the richly harnessed prancing horses, — every detail of the exquisitely painted miniature is contrasted with the grievous figure of the woman. By turning to Nizami's parable, Mahmud Muzahhib sets the reader thinking of one's own times.
Muzahhib enriches the well-known classical devices of the Timurid trend by new ones: he is the first in the Bukhara school to introduce a light chiaroscure model, to depict his figures in profile, a tendency almost entirely alien to Central Asian miniature painting. The new features introduced in the painting “Mystery Treasury” possibly anticipated the style typical of the Mogul miniature, in India (the manuscript is generally known to have been in Delhi, in the Great Mogul's Library).

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