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Title

THE ROLE OF QARCHAQAIKHAN’S FAMILY IN PROMOTING THE VISUAL ARTS OF 11TH CENTURY CITY OF MASHHAD A CASE STUDY OF AL-HASHAYESH MANUSCRIPT OF THE GOLESTAN PALACE, MANUCHEHRKHAN

Pages

 Start Page 27 | End Page 38

Abstract

 With the advent of ShahAbbas, the Safavid dynasty enjoyed its pinnacle of power. In thisera, thanks to the endurance of cultural traditions and long reign of the Safavids, and also the extraordinary patronage of artists by the court, the strengthening and establishing of art became realized. ShahAbbas’ accession to the throne caused significant political change and as a result, many traditional players of the Safavid court lost their grip on power. These changes in politics provided a chance for other layers of society, including slaves (qolams), to occupy crucial offices in ShahAbbas’ royal government, relying on their personal merits. The promotion of the slaves’ political status, it seems, has been a positive factor in their increasing contribution to the art and culture. By early 11th century (17th century A.D), the slaves, some of them favorited by the Safavid sovereigns and trained under the title of “the especial slave (qolamkhasseh) ” within the court, had joined the royal library and art workshops as painters and calligraphers, and some of them even became the guardians and collectors of famous manuscripts and other exquisite items. Very soon, as the guardians of visual arts, they were entrenched in the rivalry with the Qezelbashs and participated in the process of composing and formulating a new pictorial language which reached its prime in the 11th century. Some of these slaves provided great patronage for the visual arts. QARCHAQAIKHAN, an Armenian slave, and his descendents were distinguished patrons of art who ruled over the city of Mashhad from 1026 to 1076 consecutively. The few but otherwise extremely important works of this family were mostly recognized in the setting of the capital, i.e. Isfahan. However, literary and artistic evidence both show that one can relate the creation of these manuscripts to the city of Mashhad. During the reign of QARCHAQAIKHAN and his descendents, Mashhad experienced considerable progress in the fields of politics, culture and the art, and MANUCHEHRKHAN and his son, Qarchaqai Khan II, were significant patrons of the visual arts in the 11th century city of Mashhad. Manuchehr khan’s AL-HASHAYESH (the Herbs) manuscript with 833 colored illustrations is one of the most invaluable pictorial books of science in the Safavid era, finished on Friday, 3rd of Ramadhan of 1038 by the order and patronage of MANUCHEHRKHAN, then governor of Mashhad. The transcription was done by MOHAMMAD-BAQER AL-HAFEZ, the celebrated calligrapher of the day; and with the exception of one painting, sorat-al-kasfara (p 195) signed at the bottom as “the work of MALEKHUSEIN OF ISFAHAN”, all the other illustrations lack a signature. In the first part of this essay, we shall have a historical review of QARCHAQAIKHAN and his descendants’ era, and in the next part, their patronage of the visual arts produced in the city of Mashhad, AL-HASHAYESH manuscript in particular, will be the focus of our survey.

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