BUKHARA vi. Bukharan School of Miniature Painting



vi. The Bukharan School of Miniature Painting

As far as is known, illustrated manuscripts were produced in Bukhara only under the Shaibanid (905-1007/1500-98) and Janid (also known as Tughay­-Timurid; 1007-1199/1599-1785) dynasties.

The Shaibanids. Partly as a result of frequent raids on Herat by ʿObayd-Allāh Khan (918-46/1512-39) Persian manuscripts, artists, and calligraphers were brought to Bukhara, and the influence of Herat painting remained paramount there until the second quarter of the 11th/17th century. Contemporary chroniclers like Wāṣefī, Ḥasan Neṯārī, and Mīrzā Ḥaydar Dūḡlāt wrote glowingly of the flowering of the arts at Bukhara under ʿObayd-Allāh Khan (Ashrafi-Aini, pp. 262-64), but no illustrated manuscript dedicated to this monarch is known. Although early 10th/16th-century miniatures emulating the mid-15th-century Timurid court style of Herat have been documented from Samarkand and Tashkent (Ashrafi-Aini, pp. 250, 260-62), no such paintings seem to have been produced at Bukhara. Instead, two successive waves of later influence from Herat can be discerned. The first originated in the Timurid style characteristic of the court of Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (875-912/1470-1506). In one well-known manuscript of ʿAṣṣār Tabrīzī’s Mehr o Moštarī of 929/1523 copied in Bukhara (The Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., ms. no. 32) the architecture, the landscapes, and even the costumes and headgear are indistinguishable from those in Herat painting in the latter part of Ḥosayn Bāyqarā’s reign (Ashrafi-Aini, pls. LXXI-LXXII, figs. 151-52). This archaistic style contin­ued to exert a strong influence on Bukhara work until the mid-10th/16th century. Perhaps the most remarkable manuscript from the period is a copy of Saʿdī’s Golestān in the M. Bodmer Foundation, Geneva (Ashrafi-Aini, pls. LXXVI-LXXVII); according to the colophon it was copied by Solṭān-ʿAlī in Herat in 906/1500 but illustrated for ʿObayd-Allāh Khan’s successor, ʿAbd-al-­ʿAzīz-Solṭān (946-57/1539-50) in Bukhara in 954/1547. Both the composition and style of the paintings are derived from those in a Golestān made for Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā in 891/1486 (now in the A. Soudavar collection; Robinson, 1963; Grube, pls. 36.1-3). Some illustrated manuscripts from these years were copied by calligraphers like Solṭān-ʿAlī of Mašhad, who never lived in Bukhara; several others with paintings in the Bukhara style were copied by Mīr-Alī of Herat before his arrival in the city in 935/1528-29 (Qāżī Aḥmad, tr. Minorsky, p. 130; Robinson, 1963, p. 231). The illustrations of these texts were thus often added later, and the retardataire style of the painting makes them even more difficult to date correctly.

A second group of Bukharan manuscripts, copied in the 940s/1530s and 950s/1540s, can be firmly connected with the patronage of ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz-Solṭān, who was one of the great post-Timurid bibliophiles of Central Asia. Martin Dickson and Stuart Cary Welch have convincingly argued (pp. 36-39) that the style of paint­ing in these manuscripts was derived from the Safavid court style of about 931/1525, which was apparently transported to Bukhara by Šayḵzāda, who had been a pupil of Behzād. They propose that the Herat style of Behzād and his pupils went out of fashion at the Safavid court after the accession of Shah Ṭahmāsb (r. 930-84/1524-76), superseded by the “Tabrīz style” of the painter Solṭān-Moḥammad and his followers. Šayḵzāda then sought a new source of patronage among the Shaibanids. A flattening of architectural space and elaborate ornamental patterning characterize a mosque scene signed by him in a Dīvān of Ḥāfezá produced for Shah Ṭahmāsb’s brother Sām Mīrzā in ca. 933/1527 (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; S. C. Welch, pl. 16). A second Safavid miniature attributable to him, “Shaikh ṣanʿān before the balcony of a Christian woman,” which illustrates a poem by Mīr ʿAlī-Šīr Navāʾī in a manuscript copied at Herat in 933/1526-27, reveals a distinctive flat, broad rendering of women’s faces (S. C. Welch, pl. 11). Both traits appear in the illustrations in a manuscript of ʿAbd-Allāh Hātefī’s Haft manzáar of 944/1538 copied in Bukhara (Freer Gallery, ms. no. 56.14; Ashrafi-Aini, pl. LXXIII); a dedication in Šayḵzāda’s name appears next to one of the miniatures (Dickson and Welch, p. 40, fig. 41). The same stylistic features can be observed in later Bukharan work produced for ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz-Solṭān. Perhaps the finest manuscript made for this patron is a copy of three maṯnawīs, usually called Rawżat al-moḥebbīn after one of its sections, in the Sālār Jung Museum, Hyderabad (ms. no. A1611), illustrated in 956/1549. It contains paintings signed by ʿAbd-Allāh Boḵārī, Maḥmūd Moḏahheb, and Šayḵam b. Mollā Yūsof Heravī, who belonged to a second generation of Bu­khara painters (Ashraf, pp. 7-23; Randhawa). ʿAbd-­Allāh and Maḥmūd were mentioned by the contempo­rary Turkish chronicler ʿAlī Effendi, the first as a student of Šayḵzāda and the second as a pupil of the calligrapher Mīr-ʿAlī Heravī, “but [Maḥmūd] was a better illuminator than calligrapher” (Binyon et al., pp. 106-07). In addition to compositions derivative from Šayḵzāda’s work there are miniatures containing only one or two large figures, possibly an innovation by these younger painters. One of ʿAbd-Allāh’s miniatures (Ashrafi, p. 20, no. 10) is stylistically similar to a painting of two lovers in the Sackler Gallery, Washing­ton, D.C. (S.86.0301; Lowry, p. 190, no. 63), includes a dedication to ʿAbd-Allāh and was probably executed at this time.

ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz’s successor, Yār-Moḥammad Khan (957-963/1550-56), continued to sponsor court produc­tion of fine illustrated books. Several volumes of the poetry of Navāʾī in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, are the chief works surviving from his reign (Suleiman, ed., pls. 12-20, 26-­32). They contain series of paintings, probably executed by ʿAbd-Allāh, of Bahrām V Gōr and the seven princesses, as well as work attributable to Maḥmūd Moḏahheb and other painters.

A copy of Ferdowsī’s Šāh-nāma made in 972/1564 for the last Shaibanid ruler of Bukhara, ʿAbd-Allāh Khan (964-1007/1557-99), contains the largest cycle of il­lustrations known in a royal Bukharan manuscript (Topkapé Sarayé Library, Hazine 1488; Inal), but a marked decline in quality is noticeable in many of these paintings. Often a stereotyped background, usually of low hills, divides the page horizontally, and the compo­sition includes only one, two, or three large figures. Pigments are more thinly applied. Other manuscripts of the third quarter of the 10th/16th century contain only one or two illustrations. Jāmī’s Toḥfat al-aḥrār was an especially popular text; in addition to a copy made in ʿAbd-Allāh Khan’s library in 971/1563-64 (A. Welch, pp. 63-71) five others are known (Robinson, 1958, pp. 134-35). Usually identical episodes are illustrated with similar compositions, suggesting routine produc­tion and an absence of originality. A number of Bukharan miniatures from this period bear attributions to or “signatures” of Maḥmūd Moḏahheb, but many are copies of the master’s work by less gifted members of his atelier (Schmitz, 1989, mss. II. 13-14).

It was also in this period that several artists trained in the royal ketāb-ḵāna (library) left the Shaibanid capital—possibly because of a decline in royal patronage—and went to India. The painter Šayḵam (in some modern transcriptions Šaḥm), whose work for Sultan ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz has been noted above, was em­ployed at the Mughal court: Four miniatures signed by him appear in a copy of Saʿdī’s Golestān dated 947/1567 (British Library, London, ms. no. Or. 5302). The name of the Mughal ruler Akbar I (r. 963-1014/1556­-1605) appears in a building inscription on one of the folios (fol. 30a, Titley, p. 147, no. 349, pl. 38), and it has sometimes been argued that the volume was presented to him by ʿAbd-Allāh Khan (Robinson, 1967, no. 165, pp. 108-09; idem, 1958, p. 127; A. Welch, p. 64). As all the costumes are Mughal and the cycle of illustrations was completed only after Akbar’s death, however, it probably was not a gift to him. A less accomplished anonymous Bukhara painter produced a copy of Hātefī’s Ḵosrow o Šīrīn for Ebrāhīm Qoṭbšāh of Gol­conda in 948/1568 (Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna); in its illustrations the Bukhara figure style is combined with Deccani landscapes (Khandalavala and Doshi, p. 44, pl. 6; Skelton, 1973, pp. 182-95).

The last quarter of the 10th/16th century was a period of transition in Bukhara painting. On one hand, the final disintegration of the mid-century style is apparent. Illustrations were added to manuscripts with little or no relationship to the accompanying text; for example, more than 300 miniatures with single figures appear in a copy of Ḥosayn Wāʿezá Kāšefī’s Aḵlāq-e moḥsenī in the India Office Library (ms. no. 1097; Robinson, 1976, pp. 153-72, nos. 551-880). On the other hand, as a result of the Uzbeks’ conquest of Khorasan from the Safavids in 994/1586 Bukhara was host to a new wave of artistic influences from Mašhad and Herat (Schmitz, 1981, pp. 110-40). Furthermore, between this date and the Safavids’ reconquest of the province in 1007/1599 miniatures painted in Khorasan show youths wearing Uzbek turbans wrapped around distinctive cone­-shaped kolāhs (lit. “hats”), and it can only be assumed that local artists were working for new Uzbek patrons (Robinson et al., p. 52, no. 27; Robinson, 1976, p. 187, nos. 919-21).

The Janids. Clear evidence for the impact of the new Khorasan style in Bukhara can be found in a copy of Saʿdī’s Būstān in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (Arberry et al., pp. 66-67, no. 297). A dedication above a doorway in one of the miniatures (Pugachenkova and Galerkina, pl. 57) includes the name Ḥażrat-e Hedāyat b. Mīr Moʿīn-al-Dīn-e Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm-e Ḵᵛāja Saʿd, referring to the scion of a powerful Bukhara family of Jūybāri Naqšbandī shaikhs. The miniature was signed by Moḥammad-Šarīf in 1025/1616. His style blends landscapes and male figure types from late 10th/16th century Khorasan painting (Schmitz, 1981, pp. 110-40) with the rich architectural decoration and female types characteristic of earlier Bukharan art, the whole infused with a new, rude energy (see Plate xxix). Two other painters, Moḥammad-Darvīš and Morād, also signed paintings in the Dublin Būstān. The latter is to be identified with Moḥammad-Morād Samarqandī, whose name is inscribed in the paintings in the border around a picture of a seated princess now in the Sackler Collec­tion (S86.0304; Lowry, pp. 198-99, no. 67). His blunt and sometimes grotesque drawing, enhanced by un­usual color combinations, is typical of this school. Moḥammad-Morād frequently added illustrations to earlier dated manuscripts, which has led to confusion among scholars in the past. The work of Moḥammad-­Darvīš, on the other hand, is distinguished by figures painted in a style derivative from that of an unknown master who worked with the Herat calligrapher Shah Qāsem (active ca. 998-1034/1590-1625; Schmitz, 1981, pp. 54-67); both had been employed by the eponymous ancestor of the Janids, who was killed in the defense of Herat in 1006/1598. Other miniatures that can be attributed to Moḥammad-Darvīš are found in a copy of Majāles al-ʿoššāq of 1015/1606 (Ismailova, pls. 32-34). A thesis by Moḥammad-Amīn b. Mīrzā Moḥammad-Zamān Boḵārī Sofyānī, entitled Moḥīṭ al-­tawārīḵ and completed in 1109/1697-98, includes the names of calligraphers and artists active at the courts of ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz Khan (1057-91/1647-80) and Sobḥān­qolī Khan (1093-1114/1682-1702; Akimushkin and Ivanov). Four court painters are recorded: Moqīm (or Moḥammad-Moqīm), who was active ca. 1034-­69/1625-70; his contemporary Mollā Behzād (b. Manṣūr); ʿAważ-Moḥammad; and Gedā-ye Naqqāš. Three other painters, though not listed, are known from signed miniatures to have worked for royal patrons: Moḥammad-Amīn, Moḥammad-Salīm, and Gol-Moḥammad. The names of Pīr-e Ḡolām Manowhar Hendī Ḵānazād, who worked with Behzād, and Farhād have been noted on works of art not associated with court patronage (Skelton, forthcoming). A copy of Nezáāmī’s Ḵamsa completed in Bukhara in 1081/1671 (Chester Beatty Library; Arberry et al., p. 48, no. 276, pls. 35-37) is the masterpiece of this later painting style. The most advanced of its four painters produced landscapes of Indian type containing figures in both Indian and Central Asian dress; the models may have been works produced in Kashmir by Moḥammad-­Nāder Samarqandī (Skelton, forthcoming), a painter whose movements are unclear.

William Moorcroft, a representative of the British government who made a survey of Kashmiri arts and crafts in 1819-23, noted a large export trade in Kashmir manuscripts to Central Asia during the period of Dorrānī suzerainty (1165-1234/1752-1819), and the large number of Kashmiri books in Soviet collections attest to the accuracy of his report (Adamova and Greck). In the 13th/19th century some Kashmir artists migrated to Central Asian cities but continued to work in their native style. From the material now in hand, however, there is no evidence of the production of illustrated books in Bukhara itself after the end of the 11th/17th century.



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(Barbara Schmitz)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: January 1, 2000

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 5, pp. 527-530