Promotionsthema von Mohammad Reza Ghiasian, M.A.

The Illustrations to the Lives of the Prophets from Ḥāfiẓ Abrū’s  Majma‘ al-Tawārīkh


During the first decades of the 15th century, Shāhrukh (1377–1447) – one of the greatest Timurid rulers and a noteworthy patron othe arts and sciences – commissioned the famous historian Ḥāfiẓ Abrū to compose a number of historical and geographical works. Herewith, Ḥāfiẓ Abrū’s texts are the earliest surviving written remains of Timurid history. This historian accompanied Tīmūr on several campaigns, and, after the grandruler’s death, entered the court of his son Shāhrukh. Upon the request of Bāysunqur, Shāhrukh’s son, in 1423 Ḥāfiẓ Abrū began to compile a comprehensive universal history. The “Majma‘ al-Tawārīkh” or “Assembly of Histories” is the author’s most important work, that he compiled in four volumes.
The first volume is devoted to the history from the time of creation up to the advent of the prophet Muḥammad; the life of the prophet and the period until the extinction of the Abbasid dynasty is dealt with in the second volume. The third volume is concerned with the history of the Saffarid dynasty until the death of Abū Sa‘īd Bahādur. Ḥāfiẓ Abrū dedicated the fourth volume to Bāysunqur and named it “Zobdah al-Tawārīkh-i Bāysunqurī”. It contains the events of the years between the death of Abū Sa‘īd Bahādur up to the failed assassination of Shāhrukh.  
Today, about five illustrated manuscripts of the Majma‘ al-Tawārīkh from the time of Shāhrukh remain, most of which unfortunately are dismounted and dispersed in numerous museums and collections throughout the world. My thesis focuses on the parts dealing with the lives of the prophets from Adam up to the migration of the prophet Muḥammad from Mecca to Medina (Hijra). Because this illustrations are comparable to the paintings with similar topics in the earlier manuscript, Jāmi‘ al- Tawārīkh of Rashīd al-Dīn. Also these parts have never been translated nor edited; so a considerable achievement of my thesis will be the translation of the relevant parts from Persian into English.
The book production under Shāhrukh is barely studied and that this is quite remarkable because the Herat schools of painting of Bāysunqur and Ḥuseyn Bāyqara are dealt with in much more detail by scholars. The entire illustrated books produced for Shāhrukh are scientific or historical in content, whereas both others commissioned a lot of illustrated works of lyrical poetry. They are also in style different and might much more have to be connected to illustration of historical books in the preceding period. The comparison of these paintings with earlier illustrations to historical works will aid to explain the choices that were made for the topics and the style of the paintings. The final goal of my PhD project will be to survey the illustration of historical works in Shāhrukh’s period of reign and, by exemplifying the histories of the prophets of the Majma‘ al-Tawārīkh, to clarify the relationship of these paintings with earlier illustrations to historical texts with similar topics.