Safavid- Mughal Cultural Interrelations as reflected in Matenadaran’s ‘Bayaz’ Manuscript Illumination

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Institutional Affiliation : 
Yerevan State University
Academic Bio: 
Raisa Amirbekyan holds a Ph.D. in Art History. She is an Associate Professor at the Department of Iranology of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Armenian State University,Yerevan. From 2000 up to the present Dr. Amirbekyan has held the dual position of Senior Fellow and Head of the Department of Culture at the Caucasian Center for Iranian Studies (CCIS) in Yerevan. She has gained extensive professional experience and knowledge through her work at the Kh. Abovian Armenian State Pedagogical University in Yerevan, I. Repin State Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture of the Russian Arts Academy in St-Petersburg, the State Arts Research Institute in Moscow, and the Freer Gallery/Arthur M.Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington. D.C. It has allowed her to examine and publish numerous monuments of Islamic art, preserved in state and private collections around the world. Dr Amirbekyan has invested more than 20 years of productive research work in the repositories for Arabo-Persian manuscripts of the M.Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) in Yerevan. She has to her credit numerous scholarly projects connected with the investigation of Islamic manuscript design, including bookbinding, paper, materials of script, pigments, calligraphy, decoration, and miniature painting. She has to her credit her dissertation work, titled "Eighteenth-Century Kashmirian Miniature Painting. (On the Question of Iconography in the Illustrative Cycles of Sufi Codices)", an album ''Oriental Art in the Matenadaran Collection'' (forthcoming), 5 unpublished books, more than 40 articles, more than 30 international conferences abstracts, book reviews, etc. in Russian, Armenian, English, French, and Persian (Farsi). These works demonstrate the diapason of her scholarly interest, including Indian miniature painting (Mughal and Kashmiri schools), Ottoman calligraphy, Oriental dance history of the 15th --18th centuries, Qajar miniature, applied art, photography, Byzantine art (miniature painting, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic symbolics), Armenian manuscript miniature painting and uncials ( 12th-14th centuries), Sufism as reflected in Islamic art and architecture, cultural-historical and ethnographical aspects of the Iranian peoples, and the specificity of the cultural crossroads and contact zones (Armenian-Iranian-Kurdish, Armenian-Iranian, Armenian-Lebanese, Talish-Iranian-Azerbaijanian, Bukhara Jews-Iranian-Uzbek, etc.). She is also interested in composite 'grotesque' bodies in Islamic and Christian art; in Persian diplomatic documents of the Safavid and Qajar periods as art objects; in calligraphy and ornamentation; as well as in some aspects of Coptic textile-design.

As a rule, most of the published studies on Safavid-Mughal cultural interrelations are based on Persian historical texts and European travelogue sources. Only rarely are primary documents used. In my paper I shall explain the importance of the bayaz (a miscellaneous collection) as a historical, cultural and visual source, using as an example a seventeeth-century illuminated Persian manuscript from Armenia's Matenadaran collection.
The Matenadaran 'Bayaz' was compiled by Muhammad 'Ali Beq Isfahani, the Safavid ambassador to the court of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658). This 'Bayaz' contains an anthology of Persian poetry (Sanai, Mehri, Mirza ' Ali-Reza Tajali, Kashvari, Muhammad Kuli Salim, Safi Kuli Beq, etc,) openly Sufi in character and mindset, and dated 1629-- the first year of the reign of Shah Safi (1629-1642), the sixth ruler of the Safavid dynasty.
The owner and compiler of this 'Bayaz' manuscript also maintained a collection of Persian, Indian, and Central Asian miniatures, fine calligraphy, decorative objects, and European engravings. One can regard the Matenadaran 'Bayaz' also as a travel album which demonstrates the erudition and broad interests of a really enlightened person, against the backdrop of the historical context and local specificity. Apart from divulging the individual traits, intellectual level and mindset of Muhammad 'Ali Beq Isfahani, this manuscript also presents a panorama of the social, historical, religious and cultural aspects of everyday life in Safavid Iran, in Mughal India, and in seventeenth-century Central Asia.

Academic Discipline : 
The History of Iranian Art
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