This fascinating and beautifully illustrated manuscript provides rich evidence of a little known school of manuscript painting in Central Asia in the second half of the 17th century. At this time, when the Safavid court-style at Isfahan had become fatefully influenced by Western painting and print making, this cultural outpost continued the tradition of small scale illustrative miniatures, while developing a distinct style influenced by Mughal Indian as well as Persian court art.
There is some evidence that some of the artists associated with the 17th century Bokhara school had been trained in India. Indeed the links between the Mughal court and Transoxiana were long standing and the Mughal emperors remained interested in the area from where they had sprung. Shah Jahan was actively intefering in the politics of the area, with the result that many embassies were exchanged between the Mughals and Janids during the reign of 'Abd al-Aziz Khan.
This manuscript was prepared in the atelier of 'Abd al-Aziz Khan (reigned AD 1645-80), the last great Bukharan ruler. He is mentioned twice in the manuscript, once in the colophon on folio 341r. and also in an inscription contained within a miniature on f. 134r. This miniature representing Khusrau holding court has an inscription in the tilework which expresses the hope that the rule of 'Abd al-Aziz will last forever.
There is another reference to him in the painted and lacquered binding which was certainly done in his atelier. One of the doublures represents a seated prince, and it is tempting to think that this represents the Khan himself.
For another, later manuscript (Arberry, A.J. et al.:Chester Beatty Library Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts and Miniatures, Vol III, 1962, p.48).
For more on the artists, see Skelton, R. : Relations between Mughal and Central Asian painting in the seventeeth century, essay in Indian Art and Connoisseurship.
The miniatures are as follows:
22r. Darvish enters a garden, inscribed Muhammad Muqim.
35r. M'iraj of the Prophet
44v. Leila and Majnun at School
52r. Majnun enters the garden of Leila's palace. Signed over the door amal-i Farhad.
59v. Majnun led into Leila's camp
66v. & 67. Majnun in the wilderness with the animals, inscribed Muqim. 74v. Majnun with the deer
75r. Leila's encampment
89r. The tombs of Leila and Majnun
104v. The musician Barbad in a landscape
110v. Shirin and her companions bathing
115r. Prince Khusrau with musicians and courtiers
121r. Khusrau and Shirin play polo
128r. The battle of Khusrau and Bahram Chubin, with inscription reading shud dar zaman-i daulat-i 'Abd al-Aziz Khan 1064, done in the time of the reign of 'Abd al-Aziz Khan 1064.
134r. Khusrau holds court, inscribed Muqim.
148v. Farhad carries Shirin's weary horse
154r. Prisoners before Khusrau
208v. Practise makes perfect; Fitna carries the cow up to the roof
215v. Bahram Gur in the indigo pavilion
222v. Bahram Gur in the sandalwood pavilion
226r. Bahram Gur in the green pavilion
229v. Bahram Gur in the maroon pavilion
234r. Bahram Gur in the blue pavilion
269r. Alexander receives the Egyptians in court
274r. Alexander fights the Zangis
288v. Alexander comforts the dying Dara
294r. Alexander plunders the temple of the fireworshippers
333r. Alexander defeats the Russians
339r. Alexander meets Khizr