ʿABD-AL-ḤAYY, ḴᵛĀJĀ, miniaturist of the late 8th/14th century and the beginning of the 9th/15th century. The earliest patron with whom he is associated is the Jalayerid Ovays b. Ḥasan (r. 757-76/1356-74). Dawlatšāh (ed. Browne, p. 262) states that Ovays’s skill in drawing was so great that he became ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s teacher; the particular style of drawing they practiced is called qalam-e vāseṭī, but the precise artistic significance of the term is uncertain. A more extensive account of ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s career is given by Dūst Moḥammad in his essay on calligraphers and painters (Treatise, pp. 23-24). He stresses ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s connection with Ostāḏ Šams-al-dīn, Ovays’s chief painter. Although their association may have begun during that ruler’s reign, Dūst Moḥammad suggests that it was closest in the period after his death and before the accession of Aḥmad b. Ovays in 784/1382. During this period, Šams-al-dīn was not affiliated with any patron but devoted his energy to instructing ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy. The fact that ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy subsequently became the teacher of Aḥmad b. Ovays suggests that Šams-al-dīn’s instruction had the desired effect.

The two painters’ association was abruptly terminated by the Timurid invasion of Iraq in 795/1393; ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy was taken to Samarqand and remained there the rest of his life. After his death, other painters there copied his compositions. Ebn ʿArabšāh (ed. S. H. Manger, II2, p. 877; Persian tr., p. 314) mentions ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy among the skilled painters employed by Tīmūr, but he gives no details about his paintings. From Ebn ʿArabšāh’s mention of wall paintings he saw in Timurid palaces, scholars have concluded that ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy was responsible for their production; the text does not, however, actually suggest this. Only Dūst Moḥammad gives a direct reference to the type of painting practiced by ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy. He states that the painter, assisted by Aḥmad b. Ovays, prepared an Abū Saʿīd-nāma containing black and white drawings. No such manuscript has survived, but a considerable number of ink drawings which appear to be of late 14th century date are preserved in various albums. Some bear the notation that they were copied from ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s drawings by a certain Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd Šāh Ḵayyām. Since the latter painter is known to have been associated with Bāysonqor b. Šāhroḵ in Herat, it is plausible that he had access to the older master’s drawings. The diverse subjects of these drawings—a swimming duck, lions, Chinese warriors doing battle—do not allow one to form a clear sense of ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s repertoire; their style, however, implies that he used a subtle and varied line which could suggest both texture and volume. A drawing in the Diez Album in Berlin, showing a pair of herons, has such qualities, but it bears an illegible attribution to another artist.

The scanty pictorial and textual evidence taken together suggest that ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy specialized in ink drawings and was connected with the vogue of such drawings in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Beyond this, any precise evaluation of his work is difficult. As to wall paintings, it is of interest that most representations of them in manuscript illustrations appear to be executed in a monochrome style. Thus it may be that ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s monochrome ink style influenced the concurrent tradition of wall painting. While these wall paintings usually show landscapes with birds and animals, a few have figural subjects. It is therefore possible that the paintings of Tīmūr and his court mentioned by ʿArabšāh were executed in the monochrome style associated with ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy.

Although Dūst Moḥammad suggests that ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s work was in a monochrome ink style, the album connected with the essay contains a painting, labeled as his work, in a different technique. Not only is the figure of a sleeping prince fully painted, but is executed in a style associated with the painter Jonayd Baḡdādī. The latter’s signature appears in a manuscript of Ḵᵛāǰū Kermānī’s poetry, made for Aḥmad b. Ovays, which is now in the British Museum (Add. 18113). Unfortunately, there is at present no way of resolving the contradiction between this painting’s style and that attributed to ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy by Dūst Moḥammad. Further visual and textual documentation is needed.


Dūst Moḥammad, A Treatise on Calligraphists and Miniaturists (Ḥālāt-e honarvarān), ed. by M. Abdullah Chaghtai, Lahore, 1936.

See also Fekrī Salǰūqī, Ẕekr-e barḵī az košnevīsān va honarmardān, Kabul, 1349 Š./1970, p. 99.

Ebn ʿArabšāh, Ahmedis Arabsiadae vitae et rerum gestarum Temuri ... historia, ed. S. H. Manger, Leovardiae, 1767, II2, p. 877; Persian tr. by M. ʿA. Naǰātī, Zendagānī-e šegeft-āvar-e Teymūr, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, index.

Illustrative material: M. Ş. İpşiroğlu and S. Eyüboğlu, Fatih Albumuna Bīrūnī Bakış, Istanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Yayınları, Istanbul, n.d., figs. 120-22.

M. Ş. İpşiroğlu, Saray-Alben, VOHD 8, Wiesbaden, 1964, p. 109, fig. 41.

E. Kühnel, “Malernamen in der Berliner ʿSaray’ Alben,” Kunst des Orients 3, 1959, pp. 66-77, figs. 4, 5.

J. Sourdel-Thomine and B. Spuler, Die Kunst des Islams, Berlin, 1973, pl. LV. Stchoukine, Les peintures des manuscrits timurides, Paris, 1954, pp. 6-9.

(P. P. Soucek)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, p. 115

Cite this entry:

P. P. Soucek, “'Abd-Al-Hayy Kaja,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, p. 115; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abd-al-hayy-kaja (accessed on 15 January 2014).