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Illustrations of Timurids in the Zafarnama of Sultan Husayn or ‘Garrett Zafarnama’
Timur granting audience on the occasion of his accession

A larger image of Timur granting audience on the occasion of his accession

A larger image of Timur granting audience on the occasion of his accession

Creation date: 1467-1468, creation date: illumination, ca. 1480s
Author: text by Sharaf al-Din ’Ali Yazdi (Islamic, died 1454)
Painter: illustrations by Bihzad (Persian, 1450-1536).
Held by: John Work Garrett Library John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

The illustrated Zafarnama manuscript of Sultan Husayn, also known as the Garrett or Baltimore Zafarnama (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Library, no shelf mark), is one of the most celebrated and important among Timurid manuscripts. Produced in the fifteenth century, probably in Herat (present-day Afghanistan) for the famous Timurid ruler Sultan Husayn Mirza, the manuscript has survived in its entirety with minor retouching of the paintings, probably done in India.1 All twelve of its miniatures have been attributed to the great painter Bihzad by a later Mughal hand.
Folios 82v-83r: Timur holds audience in Balkh on the occasion of his accession on 12 Ramadan 771/April 9, 1370 (Fig. 1) [vol. 1, 158]
    The first pair of miniatures is placed right after the text that describes Timur’s accession audience at Balkh in 771/1370. The text mentions that the noyans (Mongol princes), amirs, and shaykhs accorded Timur the rule of the Chaghatay Empire and he was then called Sahib Qiran.16 The text says that the court was waiting for spring to arrive in Balkh in order to hold Timur’s accession ceremony. The double-page miniature indeed shows spring with its blooming trees and flowers. Timur sits on an elegant throne in a garden, wearing a crown and a gold belt, as described in the text. He receives congratulations and gifts from his kneeling amirs and noyans. Behind him is a magnificent tent and surrounding him are his people, servants, and sons. Arnold believes that the design on the roof of Timur’s tent is borrowed from a representation of the "talking tree" (Wakwak tree) in the Romance of Alexander.17 However, this pattern of animals in vegetal scroll motifs exists on tents independently, without alluding to any connection to Alexander the Great. Two figures at the bottom on the right side are shown from the back, which is not very common. Behind Timur, his royal attributes are displayed—bows and arrows, and a cheetah and a falcon for the royal hunt—and in front of his throne a small stream flows, separating and isolating him from the attendees.
    On the opposite page, the two men seated on low stools were identified by Arnold as the two eldest sons of Timur, Jahangir and Umar Shaykh.18 Further down on the page, five princes or amirs are kneeling; each wears a different costume and distinctive headgear, perhaps indicating different ethnic origins. Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo mentions that protocol required guests in the presence of Timur to bend their right knee, advancing in a series of bows, and then to remain kneeling with the right knee on the ground, as do the five amirs.19 The amirs’ attendants stand behind them, carrying trays with small bowls filled with gold and jewels, a custom which Clavijo describes on his first meeting with Timur.20 Behind them a group of courtiers press in through a door to pay homage, while a chamberlain with his staff restrains their impatience. Several other images, especially the audience scene in the Bustan of Sa’di in Cairo, and the one from the 1436 Zafarnama of Ibrahim Sultan, suggest that we are dealing with a composition-type adapted to a specific purpose.
    Musicians and dancers, and food and drink—the conventional elements of fifteenth-century reception scenes in Persian paintings—are absent here. Sims argues correctly that the painting is a literal transposition of word into image, conveying the precise textual meaning of the solemn accession being illustrated.2l
    The composition is crowded with figures on the left side of the double spread, but around Timur there are very few figures, and he seems to be removed and distanced from the action around him. The isolation of the hero and the quieting down of the composition around the central figure recur throughout the manuscript. It is also perhaps in this first double-page painting that the artist introduces the two main characters who will be the heroes of these paintings, Timur and Umar Shaykh, so that the viewer will learn how to recognize their portrayal elsewhere in the manuscript. Timur, for example, is always depicted as a slender figure with a pointed beard and wearing a green garment, while Umar Shaykh is fatter, has a mustache, and is also dressed in green, with a turban.
Source: The Zafarnama [Book of Conquest] of Sultan Husayn Mirza by MIKA NATIF

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