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Illustrations of Timurids in the Zafarnama of Sultan Husayn or ‘Garrett Zafarnama’
Assault on the Fortress of the Knights of St. John at Smyrna

Assault on the Fortress of the Knights of St. John at Smyrna (left)

Assault on the Fortress of the Knights of St. John at Smyrna (right)

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 449v-450r: Timur and his army storming the fortress of St. John in Izmir on 6 Jumada I 805/December 2, 1402 (Fig. 6) [vol. 2, 338]
    The drawbridge has been pulled up to close the main entrance into the castle, but the soldiers of Timur have made a temporary bridge across the moat and have broken into a side entrance, from which one of the defenders has fallen headlong. The castle of the Christian knights is decorated with inscriptions in Arabic, and the knights themselves wear helmets and turbans exactly like those worn by their Muslim enemies. Here, as elsewhere (ff. 282v-283r; Fig. 4), the Christian soldiers are indistinguishable from the Timurids. Clothing and weapons are the same, even turbans, and only position and size differentiate the two opposing forces. In the foreground of the picture on the right, Timur, dressed in green and seated on a horse, supervises the operations.
    Like the text describing the other attack on the Georgians in the Dasht-i Qipchaq (ff. 282v-283r), the narrative here may be characterized as an exercise in propaganda, an ideal description of a Timurid military campaign against a Christian enemy. The chapter is entitled "The battle against the infidels of Izmir." The word jihad is mentioned several times in the text, the messenger sent to call upon the Knights of St. John to become Muslims is identified as rasul [messenger of God], the attacking army is lashkar Islam [army of Islam], and the knights of the fortress are called kafir [infidels].
    The painting precisely follows the text. Timur on horseback directed the attack, and the engineers built a bridge to approach the castle. Almost every descriptive element in the text is utilized in the illustration, even though it is still a classic battle scene. Many elements which appeared in previous battle scenes in the manuscript are repeated here, which led Sims to believe that we are dealing with the work of one artist, or at least one master designer.30

T. Arnold, Bihzad and His Paintings in the Zafar-Namah Manuscript (London, 1930).
Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, Narrative of the Embassy of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo to the Court of Timur, at Samarcand, 1403-6, trans. C.R. Markham (London, 1859).
E. Sims, "The Garrett Manuscript of the Zafarname: A Study in Fifteenth-Century Timurid Patronage" (Ph.D. diss, New York University, 1973).

Source: The Zafarnama [Book of Conquest] of Sultan Husayn Mirza by MIKA NATIF

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