Royal Hunting Scene facing illuminated page, Majalis al-ʿUshhaq (Assembly of Lovers)
Accession Number: IU Art Museum, 60.42
Date: ca. 1470-1550, probably Herat and Bukhara (Timurid and Shaybanid)
Author: Kamal al-Din Husayn Gazurgahi (d. 1469-70)
Dimensions of work: 27.3 x 17 cm
Dimensions of painting: 17.4 x 9.7 cm
These are opening folios of a now lost manuscript that was probably started in Timurid Herat ca. 1470. Based on the language used in the dedicatory medallion and the style of the paintings, it is clear that this manuscript was completed by a Shaybanid workshop.
These two folios, which initiated a manuscript of Kamal al-Din Husayn Gazurgahi’s Majalis al-ʿUshhaq (Assembly of Lovers), include a dedicatory medallion facing the painting, which reads: “For/by the order of the library of the fortunate ruler, the illustrious padishah, epitome of the Timurid family, Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara, may God perpetuate his rule.” The epithets used for the title of Husayn Bayqara (r. 1469-1506) and the ruling family do not follow the examples found in Timurid manuscripts. Moreover, the style of the painting corresponds to that of Shaybanid Central Asian paintings. The lack of taj-i Haydari style turbans so characteristic of Safavid paintings further supports a Shaybanid (rather than an early Safavid attribution).
The manuscript was likely started in Herat during Sultan Husayn's rule but was left unfinished. It probably arrived in Bukhara sometime during the first half of the 16th century, where the newly crafted dedicatory shamsa and paintings were added, meshing Timurid and Shaybanid painting and calligraphy into a collective whole. However one must note the significance of such contemporary “fake” Timurid paintings and the admiration towards the greatness of Timurid manuscripts that they represent. Indeed, the Shaybanids were known to create imitation Timurid paintings either to deceive or to show appreciation for the high level of artistic accomplishment of the Timurid book atelier.
Painting: This painting is set within a frame of marginal decorative gold and lapis illumination with hints of red and light blue that occupy the near-entirety of the margins. Additionally ruled with red and blue the painting depicts a royal hunt with men on horseback using bows and arrows to hunt lions, wild boars, and gazelles. The pink middle ground forms hills in the distance, behind which falconers on horseback hunt against a gold sky. This type of chaotic royal hunting scene is often seen initiating Persianate (and later Mughal Indian) manuscripts; many examples of the hunting theme exist in double page format.
Similar hunting scenes from the Persian tradition can be found in: Blair and Bloom (eds), Images of Paradise in Islamic Art, 103; Grube, Islamic Paintings from the 11th to 18th Century in the Collection of Hans P. Kraus, plates XXXIII-XXXIV (cat. 147A and B); and Khalili, Islamic Art and Culture, 71.
Dedicatory Page: This decorative page is ornamented with gold and lapis illuminated geometric designs. Within the ruled section several lines of text appear written in white nastaʿliq script on a gold background. The lines read:
Bi-rasm-i kitabkhana-i khusraw-i kamgar, padishah-i namdar, khulasa-i dudman-i timur khani, Sultan-Husayn Mirza-yi Bayqara, khallada Allahu mulkahu.
For/by the order of the library of the fortunate ruler, the illustrious padishah, epitome of the Timurid family, Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqara, may God perpetuate his rule.
Verso of Painting: This is the beginning of, Kamal al-Din Husayn Gazurgahi’s Majalis al-ʿUshhaq (Assembly of Lovers), which is a compilation of prominent Sufis’ biographies. Kamal al-Din also authored a commentary on the journey of the prominent Sufi ʿAbdallah Ansari, making it not surprising that ʿAbdallah Ansari is a major figure in Majalis al-ʿUshhaq (Subtelny, “The Cult of ʿAbdullah Ansari Under the Timurids,” 400-401). A decorative sarloh or headpiece crowns the text. Between the sarloh and text is a section ruled off with the bismillah contained within. Executed in fine nastaʿliq script, the beginning of this text—following the first three lines of prose—is arranged in two columns of rhyming couplets.
A variety of paintings from other copies of the Majalis al-ʿUshhaq are featured in: Oriental Miniatures of Abu Raihon Beruni Institute of Orientology of the UzSSR Academy of Sciences, cats. 29-33 and cats. 52-54; and L’étrange et le merveilleux en terres d’Islam, 259 (cat. 176).