From Rustam to Jami: Persian heroes and manuscripts at the court of Ibrahim Adil Shah II (r. 1580-1627)

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University of California, Los Angeles
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Keelan Overton is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation is entitled “Visualizing Kingship in Islamic Bijapur: Portraiture at the Court of Ibrahim Adil Shah II (r. 1580-1627).” She is currently completing her year of dissertation research, which is being supported by a Theodore Rousseau Fellowship from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Department of Islamic Art).

Since the early twentieth century, paintings produced in the Deccani city of Bijapur have been described as a subtle mélange of local, Persian, Mughal, and European aesthetics.  To date, few attempts have been made to trace the specific Persian aesthetics that impacted Bijapuri painting during the reign of the city’s most prolific patron of the arts, Ibrahim Adil Shah II (r. 1580-1627).  This paper attempts to redress this lacuna by considering the legacy of Persian manuscripts and heroes at Ibrahim’s court.  In order to assess Ibrahim’s collection of Persian manuscripts, it is first necessary to clarify the processes by which he and his librarians conveyed ownership and value; namely, seals and scribal notations.  I will then provide an overview of the Persian contents of Ibrahim’s library while considering the following questions: What works of literature and schools of Persian painting did Ibrahim seem to prefer, and through whom and via where was he able to acquire Persian manuscripts?  Once in Bijapur, did these Persian imports influence local aesthetic developments?  Finally, I will investigate a variety of Bijapuri imagery, to include rare examples of wall paintings, inspired by the heroes and heroines of Persian literature.  Ultimately, this paper aims to clarify the resonance of Persian book arts and literature within the courtly circles of Ibrahim’s Bijapur. 

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Art History
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