The Miniature Paintings of the Barzū-Nāma: An Illustrated Interpolation to a Qajar Shāhnama from Matenadaran Collection

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  • The Miniature Paintings of the Barz-Nma: An Illustrated Interpolation to a Qajar Shhnamafrom Matenadaran CollectionAuthor(s): Rachel GoldenweiserSource: Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 3/4 (1999/2000), pp. 217-224Published by: BRILLStable URL: .Accessed: 18/06/2014 10:32

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  • THE MINIATURE PAINTINGS OF THE BARZU-NAMA An Illustrated Interpolation to a Qajar Sh3hnama

    from Matenadaran Collection


    Interpolations to Firdausi's ShhJzn&na were presumably written mostly in the I Ith and 12th centuries. Their writers, frequently anonymous, utilized the old epic tradi- tion and strove to create new stories analogous to those contained in the Shahnama. These poems supplement the cycle of legends about the Sistan hero Rustam (Smn- n1ma, Garsh&sp-n4ma, Jahangir-nama, Faranurz-nama, etc.).' However, they did not exist independently; rather, they were included much later and firmly into the copies of the Shahnana, acquiring definite positions between certain d&stns.

    One such interpolation is the Barzo-nana, which is encountered quite often in manuscript copies of the Shahnana, beginning in the Safavid period. A small extract from the Barzoi-nana was first published in 1829 by T. Makan in Calcutta2.

    Naturally, it can be posited that the plots of these interpolations were no less pop- ular than than those of the basic text, i. e. Shahnama, and that they were often illus- trated. For example, judging from the data of the illustration list to St.-Peterburg's Shahnana collection (first published by L. T. Giuzali'an and M. M. D'iakonov in 1935), we see that some manuscripts do contain illustrations to the Barza-n&na (SPL3 NPS 65, 01 1654, SPL 333, SPL NPS 13, et al.)'. However, I am unaware of scholarly works dedicated specifically to their elucidation.

    The same can be said about the miniatures of the interpolations noted in the Preliminary Index of the Shahnama illustrations published by the University of Michigan5. The catalogs of well-known public and private Oriental manuscript col- lections time and again manifest the existence of miniature compositions illustrat- ing the Barzo-nama in a different style of miniature painting than found in extant copies of the Shahn&na.' However, as for this writing, I know no publication of this rich material.

    This paper attempts to expand current notions about the Barza-ni7na by examin- ing a complete manuscript copy of the Shahn&na dated 1830 A.D., preserved as no. 535 in the Arabic and Persian manuscript collection of the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) in Yerevan, Republic of Armenia.'

    The manuscript possesses a Baysunghurl preface, and the colophon in the man- uscript states that it was prepared by order of Muhammad Karim khan Bidsharl. We also know the calligrapher, Muhammad Husain ibn Muhammad Agivll (colophon, p. 777).

    The size of manuscript is 35x23,5 cm. The text measures 25x15 cm in 4 columns of 27 lines per column. The handwriting script is a small naskh of near calligraphic quality. Black ink is used. The titles are written in cursive nasta?liq containing shikas- ta elements and are in dark-crimson ink.

    The manuscript has a double frontispiece on ff. 1 -2, 1 1-12, and 1 11-1 12, all of a high artistic and technical level, reminiscent of the best decorative patterns contained

    RA &i CAUCA^SUS, vol. -4, 1992J, pp. 217-22 inerntoa Pulctos of Irna tdj

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    in the Herati, Tabrizi and Qazvini styles of Persian miniature painting during the 15th to 16th centuries.

    The only nuance which differentiates these Qajar frontispiece from their well- known counterparts are its peculiar small flowers, painted in gouache and rendered in chiaroscuro. These flowers are ingrained in the golden arabesque found in the mar- gin of the manuscript.

    The frontispiece divides the manuscript into three parts:

    f. 2b Baysunghur's preface, including a satire against Mahmad Ghaznavi (38 bayts);

    f. 7b The beginning of the narration; and f. 206b The story of the reign of Luhrasp. From the illustrations' execution and general unity of style it is not hard to see

    here three distinctly different creative hands. However, they are contemporary to one other and can be fully considered as the works of artists belonging to the same

    kftf bkhana. The paper used in the manuscript is of

    high quality: cream-colored, polished, and Indian in origin. The cover-papers are facto- ry-made, bearing the stamp of the Russian Vyatkinfabrika as well as the monogram of Tsar Nikolai I.

    The manuscript has a lacquer binding, whose cover is decorated with miniature com- positions representing battle scenes involving a multitude of characters (about 100 persons and 25 horses). These miniatures are distin- guished by a panoramic representation of scenes, the monumental treatment of the main characters, and the inclusion in these miniatures of 19th century military ordnance, which is historically incongruent for the events depicted in the composition. The bright-red background of the inner surface of the binding covers is decorated with minia- ture compositions in which the traditional motif of "birds and flowers" is used in medal- lions and decorative corners.

    The Barza-nina is inserted between the dastans written about Bizhan and Manizha and the 12 warriors (ff. 135a-168b). It is illustrated by four of the 56 miniatures contained in the manuscript, namely:

    1. Barza's mother arrives at the battlefield (f. 153b); 2. Rustam throws a feast in honor of Barza (f. 154b); 3. Tas visits the sorceress Susan's marquee (f. 157b); 4. Rustam and Barza liberate the Iranian heroes from captivity (f. 167b).

    The first miniature represents the scene in which Barzta's mother arrives at the

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    battlefield. She tells Rustam, who has defeated the prostrate Barz-a and has raised his knife for the last stab, that Barza is Suhrab's son, i.e., Rustam's grandson - the progeny of Sam and NarTman. The excitement, terseness, and drama of the scene as well as the charac- ters' emotional state are conveyed by the painter through graphical means, i. e., plas- ticity and coloring.8

    A panoramic impression is created in the miniature by virtue of its form - rectangle joined to a trapezium. The volume of the characters' figures and the details of the com- position are rendered by means of chiaroscuro.

    The proportions of the human figures in the miniatures' compositions are I to 5. The figures have long torsos and short legs, resembling the characters of early Shirazi miniatures.9 The body parts of the characters shown are disproportionate; for example, the hands are excessively long. The characters' facial emotions are produced by the raising of eyebrows, which is atypical for the Perisan miniatures of the classical period.

    The coloring of the miniatures is based on the combination of bright, contrasting col- ors and tints applied to Qajar painting, specif- ically, yellow, orange, blue and the color of whitened kraplak. The latter dominates in the depictions of the characters and details of the composition. All of this is harmonious with the range of pastel colors in the main back- ground. One particular detail attracts our attention, namely, all of the boots of the per- sonages are yellow.

    The second miniature depicts the scene of the feast given by Rustam in honor of his grandson Barzu.'0 The Iranian heroes Tns, Gudarz, Giv, and Gustaham are shown seated in armchairs by tables on which Europian- style carafes of green glass and crystal gob- lets are placed. The scene is situated in the interior of a veranda overlooking the neigh- bouring mountains. A golden staircase deco- rated with a picture of a serpent leading to the garden visually extends the frames of the

    composition of the miniature. In the window- opening there are fluttering vermilion-colored drapery curtains with golden borders


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    Rustam throws a feast In honor of Rarzu (f. 154b)

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    Rustam and Barzu liberate the Iranian heros from captivity (f. 154b)


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    against a background of a mountain landsca