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Illustrations of Timurids in the Zafarnama of Sultan Husayn or ‘Garrett Zafarnama’
Destruction of the remnant of the Kipchak Army


A larger image of Destruction of the remnant of the Kipchak Army (left)


A larger image of Destruction of the remnant of the Kipchak Army (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 282v-283r: Timur's army attacks the survivors of the town of Nerges, in Georgia, in the spring of 798/1396 (Fig. 4) (vol. 1, 556]
    This miniature shows part of Timur's campaign in Dasht-i Qipchaq in 1395-96. In the text, the survivors of a town called Nerges were pursued into the mountains where they hid in caves and passageways high on the upper slopes. The Timurid army positioned itself above the caves, lowered soldiers down in baskets until they were face to face with the Georgians, and annihilated them. Timur's campaign against the Georgians is "justified" in the text as a jihad, a holy war against the Christian infidels. A more practical reason for it was the richness of the country and Timur's constant need for booty.
    The figure of Timur appears on the upper part of the left page and, in accordance with the depiction of the hero of the scene, he is isolated from the rest of the group. Wearing his green robe, he is mounted on his horse; an attendant holds a parasol over his head; and he seems to survey the operation from the top of the cliff. The Timurid army occupies most of the composition, which flows from right to left. There are many small details that are not related to the narrative, such as the animals at the bottom of the left page and the defined facial expressions of some of the soldiers, especially one on the top left page. In the background on the right page, the ruins of the conquered city are visible from afar.
    The subject of this miniature is unique in Persian painting up to this time, and the manner of representing it is equally original. A fantastically colored landscape shows strangely shaped rocks (about to assume faces, which will happen a few decades later), and a much freer and more inventive composition emphasizes the landscape, which is crucial to understanding the scene.
    The flow of the mounted soldiers and their horses from one page to the other, the horses' movement, the winding passageway in the mountains, and the curves of the strange rocks create a rhythm, a pattern, a weavelike movement that leads to Timur's figure on the left-hand page. Then the movement, directed first from top to bottom through the soldiers' gestures, the ropes, and even the curves of the rocks, reaches a peaceful climax in the animals in the oasis below.
Source: The Zafarnama [Book of Conquest] of Sultan Husayn Mirza by MIKA NATIF


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