Persian Miniature Painting: Abdullah at the court in Kabul
In Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s Haft Awrang, A Princely Manuscript from Sixteenth-Century Iran Shreve Simpson has given us a wonderfully detailed study that covers Abdollah-e Mozahheb and his peers. Simpson raises an interesting question in her notes as to where Abdollah-e Mozahheb was before the mid 1550s. Simpson notes that there is a manuscript in the NYPL that has a colophon signed by Abdollah-e Mozahheb. She terms it problematic since the Colophon would place Abdullah at the court in Kabul prior to the mid 1550s 2.
At this point my thought is if Abdollah-e Mozahheb was at the court of Kamran in Kabul is there any art that is in the style of Abdullah. Art from this period is scarce but one piece stood out as worthy of subject. In Soudavar’s Art of the Persian Court there is a magnificent Shamse (roundel) that is credited with a probable attribution of Kabul circa 1550
As I focus on the details of the signed works of Abdullah as compared to the Kabul Shamse small points of similarities arise.
In the west we focus on the skill with which faces are drawn and the naturalistic poses of the figures in a model. In the sixteenth century detail work like we see to the left was more valued that what we seek today. Consequently to understand this art we have to seek to understand their criteria for judging.
I have a recollection that a number of Pre-Mughal Sultanate State Korans were sold at Sotheby’s in the Seventies and early eighties that show similar but not identical gold Bands. I will have to dig out the catalogs. I do not remember seeing many good bands in Shiraz work in the mid-sixteenth century. Since Abdollah-e Mozahheb paints in a hybrid Shiraz style could he have been a Shiraz artist who worked a few years at the court of Kamran and learned to do Gold Bands. Of course that is just wild speculation since we can not at this point demonstrate convincingly that Abdullah was at the Court of Kamran. Although the dates certainly fit.
A small note on Kabul Politics in the mid sixteenth century: Humayun took Hindustan as his kingdom and set his brothers as kings of other lands. In 1540 Sher Khan drove Humayan from Hindustan. Sher Khan then took he name Sher Shah. Humayan sought aid from his brothers but they were not willing to lend full aid and comfort.
By 1544 Humayan crossed over into Safavi Persia. Humayan was able to gain the backing of Tahmasp Safavi Shahinshah of Persia after converting to Shia Islam. In 1545 Humayan entered the Mughal empire with an army. This started a 8 year war that finally resulted in Humayun entering Kabul as undisputed leader in 1553. At this point Humayan had his brother Kamran blinded and the court of Kamran was gone forever. Humayan ruled until his death in 1556. 16.
1544 Humayun crossed over into Safavid Persia and gain the backing of Shah Tahmasp Safavi Shahinshah of Persia after converting to Shia Islam.
1545 Humayun entered the Mughal empire with an army. This started a 8 year war that finally resulted in Humayan entering Kabul as undisputed leader in 1553. At this point Humayun had his brother Kamran blinded and the court of Kamran was gone forever. Humayun ruled until his death in 1556.
1549 In 1549 Duust Mohammad traveled to t he court of Kamran king of Kabul. Welch, Wonders of the Age. Page 194.
1550 Shamse, Kabul, Circa 1550
I am begining to suspect that Abdollah-e Mozahheb and Shaykh Muhammad may have been at the court of Kamran and worked under Duust Mohammad. I do not think this Shamse is the work of Abdollah-e Mozahheb but I think it is representative of the workshop where Abdollah-e Mozahheb took what he leaned in Shiraz and polished it under a master trained by Bihzad. Abdollah-e Mozahheb is very much a product of Shiraz but he also shows a refinement that can only come from studying under a great master such as Abdollah-e Mozahheb