Wednesday, 22. May 2019, 11:30 - 13:00
The Shaybānids and the Shāh-nāma
Within the collection of Persian-language texts held by the Topkapı Palace Library in Istanbul there exists an illustrated manuscript that travelled from Central Asia (Transoxiana) to its present location, where it was gifted in 1594. The book was originally scribed, illustrated, and bound in Bukhara (Uzbekistan) in 1564 for the local ruler there who presented it thirty years later to the Ottoman sultan. Scholarship up to now has held that the artists of Transoxiana seldom illustrated copies of this particular work, the Shāhnāma, which has generated a legacy of illuminated manuscripts full of conflicts and combats chronicling the pre-Islamic history of Central Asia and the regions corresponding to Iran and Turkey today. Compared to other dynasties it does seem odd how few copies of the epic poem survive. But this makes the small number of definitive productions, such as the Topkapı manuscript, significant objects through which to analyze the cultural and historical milieu in which they were created and transmitted. This talk is derived from a dissertation investigating the little-known partnership in politics and painting between the Ottomans and the Shaybānid Uzbeks (who ruled over eastern Iran and Central Asia) in the 16th century. It contributes to the still under-researched field of mutual influence between them, and on the intersections of the Ottoman and Persianate worlds in illustrated manuscripts. The manuscripts attest to cultural exchanges, artistic practices, and burgeoning national identities based on geography, language, and religion during an exciting era that has since shaped our own age.