The Study of the Miniature Painting of Uzbekistan

Issue #2 • 38

Abdumadjid Madraimov, Historian

This kind of art, like painting, traces its roots back to the ancient petroglyphs, and the arts related to the Buddhism and the medieval monumental wall paintings, as well as the medieval art of calligraphy book illustration, decoration and binding, etc. The genre of the miniature originated in X–XII centuries under the influence of the Arab miniatures of Baghdad, which became part of the Arabic Caliphate in the VIII–IX centuries. Although the samples of the miniatures of that period have not survived up to date, or rather, they have not been discovered yet, the references to them can be found in the written sources. Still the pictures preserved on the pottery of that period show the landscapes and specimens of calligraphy.
Arabic miniature of the VIII–X centuries was influenced by the traditions of Greco-Roman and Byzantine fine art. The first Arabic miniatures have been done for the handwritten treatise of Dioscorides, “Pharmacology” (Istanbul, Topkapi Palace, Ahmad 1112127; New York, Metropolitan Museum, No.57.51.21), where the portraits of the ancient Greek philosophers are depicted, which later on have contributed to the development of the portrait genre in the Central Asia.
The manuscripts of the X-XII centuries – “Kitabi Surati al-Arz” (“The book of the picture of the Earth) by Muhammad Musa al-Khwarizmi, “Devoni lugot ut-Turk” (“The Dictionary of Turkic words”) by Mahmud Kashgari, the work written in Persian language – “Hudud ul-Olam” by the unknown author, mainly contain the images of the world map.
The manuscripts of the XIII–XIV centuries belonging to the works of Abu Rayhan Beruni (973-1048) – “Osor ul-Bokiya” (“The monuments of the ancient peoples”) – have the scenes from the life of Adam and Eve in Paradise, the arson of Jerusalem and the pictures on other subjects (Edinburgh, University Library, No. 161). The features of Arabian miniatures are notable in the miniatures to the manuscripts – the conciseness of the lines, a certain dullness of colors, clear and sharp depiction of human beings.
Many of the survived miniatures belong to the XIII–XIV centuries, but it is not yet clear which of them were created on the territory of present day Uzbekistan. In that period, the miniatures to “Shahnameh” by Abulqasim Ferdowsi were created; to “Kalila and Dimna” based on the collection of the ancient Indian fables – “Panchatantra”; to “Jami ut-Tawarikh” by Fazlullah Rashiduddin; to the handwritten copies of “Khamsa” by Amir Khusraw Dehlavi. These miniatures show the prevalence of specific features of the era of Mongol domination over the ancient cultural traditions. Composition of the miniatures is traditional, although they give little attention to depiction of the buildings, while a considerable space is given to the images of animals, and the military battles scenes.
In the epoch of the Timurids and the following period the art of miniature becomes popular, and there is a constellation of artists-miniaturists, who created wonderful pieces of art. To the beginning and the middle of the XX century, a genre of the Eastern miniature was rediscovered and became popular. A great contribution to its development in Uzbekistan was made by the scholars like Hamid Suleyman, Galina Pugachenkova, Fozila Suleymanova, Elmira Ismailova and others. The albums prepared and published by them in the 1980s of the XX century had a major impact on the revival of the art of miniature painting. Particularly active in the revival of the ancient art of miniature in the spirit of modern times were the artist-miniaturist, Shomahmud of Muhammadjanov, who has been awarded the State prize, ? and the goldsmith and miniaturist Niyozali Kholmatov.
In 2001-2004, the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan in collaboration with the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan and under the auspices of UNESCO has published in English a three-volume album “The Eastern Miniatures”, containing the miniatures from ancient manuscripts preserved at the Institute of Oriental Studies named after Abu Rayhan Beruni and the Museum of Literature named after Alisher Navoi. The album also has descriptions and black-and-white images of 113 manuscripts and calligraphy samples.
Within the period of 2002-2010, the Memorial Garden Museum named after Kamoliddin Behzad had acquired more than 70 works of the famous artists such as academician Sh. Muhammadjanov, the holders of the Behzad Award – G. Kamolov, T. Boltibayev, H. Nazirov, V. An, M. Sobirov, the honored worker of culture – H. Soliev, Sh. Shoahmedov, K. Mirzaeyv, H. Muhitdinov, B. Hodjimatov, M. Salimov, and others. Currently the Museum houses over a hundred priceless manuscripts of the beginning of the XIV century and the end of XIX – beginning of XX centuries. Among them are “Tafsir” by Yakub Charhi, “Ahloqi Mukhsini” by Huseyn Wais Kashifi, the works of Alisher Navoi, Djami, Khafiz Sherazi, Muhammad Fazuli, and others. Moreover, the Museum contains more than 250 valuable lithographic and printed books, including miniatures created to “Gulistan” by Saadi and “Ajayib-ul-Makhluqat” by Qazwini. All written sources preserved in the Museum are of great importance for the study of the art of miniature. In the preface to the “In the world of elegance” of the collection of “The Eastern School of Miniature” (1) there is a summary analysis of the literature published in Uzbek and Russian languages. The work dedicated to the 525 anniversary of K. Behzad contains a reference list of the material written about this great artist in Uzbek, Russian and other languages, compiled by N. Norkulov (2, p. 106-111).
In the 1st and the 2nd volumes of the catalog “The Eastern Miniatures”, published in 2001 and 2003, (3, p. 227-237) under the auspices of UNESCO, there is a bibliography divided into: 1. Historical and popular editions, and scientific works; 2. Manuscripts: collections, catalogues and articles; 3. Miniatures, calligraphy and book covers; 4. Miniature as the source; 5. Literature in Uzbek language; 6. Literature in European languages. Part of the literature specified in these reference sources has been analyzed in the doctoral thesis of A. Madraimov (4), who has revealed that the Eastern miniatures and calligraphy, and the bookmaking craft, in general, is a priceless element of the spiritual treasury of human civilization.
Of particular note are the albums “Musavvir. Ubekistonning bugungi miniatura rangtaswiri” (“Artist. Contemporary miniature art of Uzbekistan”) and “Zamonaviy Uzbekiston miniaturasi” (“Modern miniature of Uzbekistan”) that have been prepared for publication by the art critic, Sh. Shoyakubov (5), which shows the samples of the artworks by contemporary miniature artists, and information about them. These albums can serve as a valuable resource in elaboration of textbooks and manuals on the modern art of miniature for students of schools and colleges. A number of books and methodological manuals is dedicated to the art of miniature and calligraphy, including “Arab hattotligi” (“Arabic calligraphy”), “Hat talimi” (“Teaching of calligraphy”) by T. Zufarov, several brochures by S. Badalbaeva, and tutorials by P. Shobaratova (6).
For further development and study of the art of miniature it should be determined what kind of literature could be recommended to the fans of this art, to the students of the schools, colleges and universities.

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