This manuscript is a copy of the Bustan of Sa'di made for Tursun, a Vizier of 'Abdallah Khan, the Shaybanid ruler of Bokhara from 1556-1598. It was produced a year after 'Abdallah Khan proclaimed his father Iskandar supreme Khan in Bukhara. According to Bregel, 'Abdallah proclaimed his father Iskandar supreme Khan in Bokhara; the latter remained a figurehead whilst 'Abdallah became actual ruler' (Yu, Bregel, 'Abdallah Khan b. Eskandar, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. I, p. 198). Bosworth writes that under the period of 'Abdallah Khan, Transoxiana experienced much cultural and commercial progress (C.E. Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties, Edinburgh 1996, p. 289), which manifested itself in the temporary reversal of the deteriorating repetitive trend that Bokhara painting had lapsed into following the apogee of painting in the mid-fifteenth century under the bibliophiles 'Obeydollah Khan and 'Abdul 'Aziz Khan.
Abolala Soudavar publishes a manuscript of Jami's Yusuf wa Zulaykha (Soudavar, Art of the Persian Courts, New York, 1992, no. 80a-f, pp. 212-215), made for the library of 'Abdallah Khan. Some of the miniatures in that manuscript are ascribed with later attributions to Mahmud Muzahhib (the illuminator) by whom the miniatures in the present manuscript are signed.
Mahmud Muzahhib Haravi was a celebrated painter, illuminator and calligrapher who worked in both Herat and Bukhara in the flourishing library-atelier of 'Abdullah's predecessor 'Abdul 'Aziz Khan (r. 1540-49). There is no record of him having been taken to Bukhara after the Shaybanids capture of Herat in AH 935/1528-9 AD, and not much is recorded about him. However over twenty of his works, including manuscripts and single paintings, are recorded and are dated between AH 942/1535-36 AD and AH 963/1555-56 AD, making this the last recorded work by him. These works demonstrate that Mahmud Muzahhib worked both in Herat and Bukhara and travelled to Mecca. A manuscript written by him which was written in Mecca 1561-62 is lot 314 of the present sale. One of the most famous of his works is a full size portrait of Mir 'Alishir Nava'i, the famous minister of Sultan Husayn Bayqara which is in the Shrine Museum in Mashhad. Amongst the others are a copy of Sa'di's Bustan in the Gulbenkian Collection, and a manuscript of the Diwan of Jami and Bustan of Sa'di, which was formerly in the Kevorkian Collection. A copy of Jami's Tuhfat al-Ahrar (Sup. Pers. 1416) in the Bibliotheque Nationale, also carries an attribution to Mahmud (B.W.Robinson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Persian Paintings in the Bodleian Library, Oxford 1958, pp. 134-6; A. Soudavar, op. cit. 1992, p. 86; M. Karimzadeh Tabrizi, The Lives & Works of Old Painters of Iran, Vol. III, 1991, pp. 1118-22 and Mehdi Bayani, Ahval va Asar-e Khosh-Nevisan, Vol. III, Teheran, 1348 sh, p. 895).
The miniatures and inscriptions incorporated within them are as follows:
1. Dara and his keeper of horses
2. Moses and the Zorastrian - The building with the inscription: fi ayyam-i al-dawlat al-khaqan al-a'zam abu'l-ghazi 'abdallah bahadur khan khallada allah ta'ala mulkihi wa sultanihi fi shuhur sana 969, '[it was finished] during the reign of the most great Emperor, Abu'l Ghazi 'Abdallah Bahadur Khan - may God the Mighty make his Kingdom and his power eternal - in the course of the year 969 [1561-2 AD]'. Above the door is the inscription: jihat-e janab-e vezarat ma'ab amir-e mehtar tursun be-etmam rasid, 'it was finished for His Excellency, with the seat of Vizierate, the Greatest Commander, Tursun'. The miniature is signed around the door frame: 'amal Mahmud Muzzahib.
3. The beautiful physician and his patient - Inscribed fi ayyam al-dawlat al-khaqan al-a'zam abu'l ghazi 'abdallah bahadur khan khallada allah ta'ala mulkihi wa sultanihi, '[it was finished] during the reign of the most great Emperor, Abu'l-Ghazi 'Abdallah Bahadur Khan, may God the Mighty make his kingdom and his power eternal'.
4. Father in ecstasy listening to his son playing the flute - Inscribed fi ayyam-i al-dawlat al-khaqan al-a'zam al-akram abu'l-ghazi 'abdallah bahadur khan fi sana 970, '[it was finished] during the reign of the most great Emperor, the most generous, Abu'l Ghazi 'Abdallah Bahadur Khan in the year 970 [1562-63 AD]'. The signature of the artist is found in the margin below the miniature, 'amal Mahmoud Muzahhib.
5. Malik Salih receiving the homeless dervishes - Inscribed fi ayyam-i al-dawlat al-khaqan al-a'zam al-akram abu'l-ghazi 'abdallah bahadur khan khallada allah ta'ala mulkihi wa sultanihi fi sana 969, '[it was finished] during the reign of the most great Emperor, the most generous, Abu'l Ghazi 'Abdallah Bahadur Khan - may God the Mighty make his kingdom and his power eternal - in the year 969 [1561-2 AD].