Apart from being one of the most exciting re-discoveries of the last decade, this khamsa is important because of its fascinating line of provenance. Our manuscript had almost certainly been kept in Isfahan in an immaculate condition since the last quarter of the 15th century, until Philipp Walter Schulz, who is described by Robinson as 'the most methodical and scholarly European scholars of Persian art' purchased it in 1897-99 (Kadio and Szanto, 2013, pp.216-18). Schulz was the first German author to write on Persian miniature painting. His collection was exhibited in Leipzig in 1900 (see Kunstgewerbe-Museum zu Leipzig, 1990) and later sold to museums, libraries, and private collectors.
Pir Budaq (d.1466) was the eldest son of the Qara Qoyunlu ruler Jahanshah (r.1439-1467). With his father, he led a number of important Turkoman assaults on the Timurid territories of central Iran conquering centres such as Fars, Kirman, Isfahan, Mashhad, Yazd and Qum. In 1452, Pir Budaq was given the governorship of Isfahan by his father. Upon accepting the position, he entrusted the city to an Amir and marched to Fars to take over the town from Sultan Sanjar, who had fled to Khorasan (Minorsky, 1955, p.6). In the following year, he was ordered by his father to govern Fars, with his capitals in Isfahan and Shiraz. As a result of continued disobedience, in 1458, the governance of Fars was given to his brother, Yusuf, and he was sent to Baghdad, the former seat of the Islamic world instead. There he asserted his autonomy by striking coins in his own name and replacing his father's name with his own in the Friday sermon. Jahanshah took this direct challenge badly. With the help of his other son, Mirza Muhammad, they marched on Baghdad. After a siege of eighteen months, Jahanshah and Mirza Muhammad took the city and killed Pir Budaq.
Pir Budaq was a true connoisseur of the finest manuscripts and had two main academies at Shiraz and Baghdad. During his short period of power, an exquisite library of manuscripts was created. A true bibliophile, he gathered the best calligraphers, painters and illuminators at his courts, using the highest quality of paper, pigments and material. In consistency of quality and aesthetic balance as well as the large number of manuscript productions, his library most closely resembles that of the Timurid prince and bibliophile, Baysunqur (d.1433) whose taste and patronage set a high benchmark of excellence for any future ruler or prince. Our diwan is a true testament to the superb quality of manuscripts produced for Pir Budaq, who capitalised on the resources and talents available to him.
Our khamsa of Amir Khosraw Dihlavi was originally bound to a copy of the khamsa of Nizami. These two were separated at some point by a European owner, most probably Schulz, between 1897-1912. Many scholars have discussed and studied the Nizami, and always questioned the whereabouts and existence of our volume since it had disappeared in to private hands after being separated in the early 20th century (Brend, 2003, pp. 104-105). According to Schultz’s publication on his collection, the original manuscript housed 36 illustrations (Binyon and Wilkinson, 1933, pl.69, p.93 and Minovi and Blochet, 1959, no. 137, pp. 97-69). At some point, many of these illustrations were dispersed and sold separately resulting in their sporadic presence in private collections and museums such as the one in the David Collection, Copenhagen (inv. no. 39/2006). The khamsa now in the Chester Beatty Collection, which is the sister volume to our diwan contains 19 of its original illustrations. Scholars have debated the attribution of some of these paintings since they depict the styles of a number of artists, which are attributable to both Shiraz and Herat (ibid., see also Pope 1938, p.1856 and Robinson, 1991, pp. 23 and 31). This comes as no surprise since we are well aware of Pir Budaq’s desire and ability to migrate his artists to new centres. It was the vision of Pir Budaq that brought these different styles together as a unified school which Robinson termed 'Turkman Court Painting' (Robinson, 1991, pp.29-30).
As a result of the lack of a colophon, which is present at the end of our manuscript, the attribution of the Chester Beatty khamsa has always been a puzzle, either thought to be Herat, Shiraz or in fact Isfahan according to Schulz’s notes, but always followed by a question mark. Our colophon, which states the production of the manuscript in the Dar al-Amana (Royal Treasury) of Isfahan therefore proves that the calligraphy was in fact produced in Isfahan, eradicating all doubt. The date of our manuscript correlates with the period during which Pir Budaq was the governor of Baghdad (1460-66), where the majority of extant works were produced for him. However, this manuscript must have been commissioned by him in Isfahan in order to be completed there by the finest calligraphers and illuminators.
A fascinating aspect of this otherwise exquisite khamsa is that two chapter heading illuminations remain unfinished. This reflects how the upheaval at the court in Baghdad during the 18-month siege which Pir Budaq’s father and brother placed on him resulting in his death, affected production in Isfahan. The manuscript was never completed after the death of its patron and was probably paused during its production by the illuminators in Isfahan.
This khamsa along with other extent manuscripts made for Pir Budaq's library are the finest demonstrations of balance, control and refinement. The program of illumination might be limited here but it is executed with utmost care and uses the same pigments and design aesthetics that are seen on other Pir Budaq manuscripts. The headings bear close resemblance to the illuminations of the diwan of ‘Umar Khayyam (inv. no. Ousley 131) and a masnavi of Rumi (inv. no. Elliot 251) both in the Bodleian Library. Our manuscript is also sensually appealing because of the quality of its crisp paper and the elegance of the nasta’liq calligraphy. At this time lapis lazuli was the rarest pigment, and yet the most characteristic feature in Pir Budaq’s manuscripts is its rich use along with gold, which is generously applied to illuminations and text blocks as seen on the illuminated headings of our diwan. A rare and informative decree dating to Ramadan 864 (July 1460) housed in an album at the Topkapi Sarayi Muzesi (H. 2153, fl. 141b) issued by him during his last month as the governor of Shiraz illustrates the importance he gave to having the very best material used for the production of his manuscripts. In this decree, Pir Budaq demands the envoys to send to Shiraz lapis lazuli, Chinese shilu (green malachite) and jasper, all to be used for the pigments that are most common in his manuscripts (Roxburgh, 2014, 183).
Pir Budaq's refined taste is underscored by the selection of the most eminent calligraphers of his day to copy his books. They include Shaykh Mahmud, Azhar and Abdal-Rahman al-Khwarazmi. Although not much is known of the scribe of the present manuscript, ‘Abdullah Katib Isfahani, he is known to have been active in the royal court and recorded by Mehdi Bayani as having copied a Jami al-Tawarikh in Isfahan in AH 880, now in the National Library in Tehran. The fact that ‘Abdullah Katib mentions the location in which the manuscript was completed is important as it proves that Pir Budaq was also commissioning works in other centres to be sent over to him. This increased his speed of production, and allowed for other master calligraphers in addition to his favoured scribes such as Mahmud and Azhar to also contribute to his library.
Pir Budaq also commissioned another earlier khamsa of Dihlavi copied by Mahmud, his favorite calligrapher, which is dated 1455-56 and kept in the Bodleian Library (inv. no. Fraser 65). Two manuscripts copied for the library of Pir Budaq were exhibited in the exhibition 'Turks. A Journey of A Thousand Years, 600-1600' in the Royal Academy. The first of these is a diwan of Qasim, copied by Shaykh Mahmud Pir Budaqi and dedicated to Pir Budaq in 'the last days' of Jumada II AH 863/early May 1459 AD (also published in Lentz and Lowry, 1989, no.139, pp.248-49). The other was a diwan of Katibi, copied by 'Abd al-Rahman al-Khwarazmi dedicated to Pir Budaq and dated Jumada I AH 860/April-May 1456 AD (Roxburgh, 2005, no. 212 and 213). The latter was, according to Roxburgh, the earliest known commission of Pir Budaq. Two others are published, one a copy of a work by Amir Khusraw, dated AH 867/1463-64 AD now in Istanbul (TS R. 1021) and a work dated AH 870/1465-66 AD in the India Office Library (Gray 1979, p. 217). Pir Budaq’s extraordinary patronage of the arts continued and he commissioned some wonderfully illuminated manuscripts. A fine manuscript copied for Pir Budaq in Baghdad in the same year as our manuscript was sold in these Rooms, 6 October 2011, lot 124. The right-hand half of a frontispiece from an unidentified manuscript sold in these Rooms, 25 April 2013, perfectly illustrates the regal figure of Pir Budaq enjoying all the fruits of kingship.
The Baghdad manuscripts (listed above, all dating from the period when Pir Budaq was governor 1460-66) are referred to by Robinson as being more 'mature', showing the impact of the Herat tradition developed under Baysunghur's patronage. Al-Baghdadi’s Tarikh al-Ghiyathi provides an astonishing passage on the actions taken by Pir Budaq, which led to the creation of this ‘mature style’, when transferring his artists from Shiraz to Baghdad: ‘And he amassed a caravan from the people of Shiraz [comprising its] artists, scribes and master craftsmen in his company and departed the city…’ (Roxburgh, 2014, 182). Pir Budaq’s extensive travels with the same entourage of artists meant that the quality of production was always of the same excellent level. The majority are volumes of unillustrated poetry - either diwans or anthologies of selected verses by different poets, or longer works of individual poets including Jalal-ad-Din Rumi and Amir Khusraw Dihlavi. Each manuscript is characterized by crisp paper, fine calligraphy, exquisite binding and inventive illumination - which decorates not only the standard places where it would be expected, but also at the end of sections below or facing the colophon (Roxburgh, op.cit., p.429). Indeed, this new style, heavily influenced by Herat, continued in Baghdad into the Aqqoyunlu period. A manuscript in the Khalili collection, which has a dedication to Sultan Khalil shares very similar illumination to ours despite being copied some fifteen years later (Abu Dhabi, 2007, no. 205, p.173).
For the most recent and comprehensive list of manuscripts produced for Pir Budaq see Roxburgh, 2014, pp.175-222. For more general information on Pir Budaq, see Robinson, 1993, pp.18, 22 and 228-229.