The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Miniatures and Arts of the Book


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Manuscripts, illustrations and illuminations from the Seljuk era are very rare.


Two notable manuscripts have come down to us: the Masnavi of Warka and Gulshah (mid 13th c) and The Automata (Kitab fi-Ma’rfeti’l-Hiyel) by al-Jazari. These two works are also important because their artists are known, they are well-preserved, and their artistic quality is undeniable.


The manuscript of Warka and Gulshah comprises 71 miniatures. The text was written in Persian and was produced in Anatolia by Abdulmumin, son of Muhammad, the engraver, of Hoy. The text of al-Jazari, written in 1204-1206, is a scientific text which discusses automatons. He furnished details on the mechanisms of clocks (especially water clocks); water tools, fountains and depots, water pots and pools; pumps, watermills, various gears and wheels; doors, doorframes and  locks.  The  book includes a drawing of the famous Cizre Ulu Cami door knockers.


These two manuscripts give insight into the style of the era, which was highly-colored and lively. A wide-range of colors were used, including blue, dark blue, red, pink, green, yellow, lilac and black, often with a gold wash. The paper quality is high. The illuminations can cover the whole page, can be in the middle of the page in a rectangle surrounded by text,  or can be used as a header at the top of a page. The illustrations are often framed with vegetal compositions comprising rums and and palmettes, as well as geometrical elements.


The figures depicted have round faces, rosebud mouths, slanting eyes and prominent joined eyebrows, and long, braided hairstyles. As in the case of ceramics, the figures depicted here provide valuable information on the embroidered fabrics and tunics worn in the era.



Miniature of Warka and Gulshah


Istanbul, Topkapi Saray Museum, inv. 841, mid 13th c.


This manuscript of 70 sheets and 71 miniatures is the only known copy of the masnavi (rhyming couplets) relating the love story of Warka and Gulshah. The bright color, gilded highlights, detailed depictions and lively spirit make this an outstanding piece of workmanship, done by the painter Abdulmumin, son of Muhammad of Hoy, who is also mentioned in the foundation charter of the Karatay Mosque in Konya, which leads scholars to believe that the manuscript was produced in Konya in the 1250s. The details of the clothing, textiles, buildings, foods, and utensils shed much light onto the lifestyle of the era.







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