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Illustrations of Timurids in the Zafarnama of Sultan Husayn or ‘Garrett Zafarnama’
Troops of Timur attacking the city of Khiva/Urganj


A larger image of Troops of Timur attacking the city of Khiva/Urganj (left)


A larger image of Troops of Timur attacking the city of Khiva/Urganj (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.
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Folios 115v-116r: Timur’s army commanded by Umar Shaykh attacks Urgench/Khiva in the spring of 781/1379 (Fig. 2) [vol. 1, 218]
    These paintings show a specific event at the beginning of the siege of Urgench, a town on the lower Amu-Darya, in 1379. At that time Urgench was held by Yusuf Sufi, a Jala’ir chieftain. The text describes a group of Khorezmian soldiers who ventured outside the gates and were chased back into the city by Umar Shaykh ibn Timur and his men. The miniatures show soldiers on horses attacking the citadel, pushing a body of horsemen back into the city over a wooden drawbridge. Umar Shaykh, the hero of this episode, occupies the center of the right-hand page and is mounted on his horse with the tiger-skin caparison. Behind the prince ride trumpeters on horseback and a man on a camel beating kettledrums. Above the great gateway, the defenders of the city are shooting arrows, and one man is hurling down a huge stone. Corpses, separated body parts, and wounded men are scattered around,22 perhaps to increase the feeling of the difficulty of battle and greatness of the victory.
    The two halves of the painting are very different in size and do not make a single whole, as if a band or a strip of the composition is now missing. Moreover, the composition is awkwardly arranged and the figures on the right page are larger than those on the left side; the figures in the citadel are noticeably smaller. The artist attempted to represent the animated bodies of men and horses in a variety of positions, maneuvers, and perspectives. One such interesting detail shows a white horse in the middle-right of the left page, where the creature is in profile, turning and twisting its head to the right toward another horse.
    It has been claimed that the painting mixes fifteenth-century conventions and original features, both in the conception of the scene and in specific details, but it may also be read as a literal illustration of the text. As in the previous painting, the central figure, this time Umar Shaykh, is isolated against the background.23
Source: The Zafarnama [Book of Conquest] of Sultan Husayn Mirza by MIKA NATIF


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