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Sturkenboom, Ilse ORCID: 0000-0002-9234-4411 (2018): The Paintings of the Freer Divan of Sultan Ahmad b. Shaykh Uvays and a New Taste for Decorative Design. In: Iran : Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, Vol. 56, No. 2: pp. 184-214
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The marginal paintings on eight leaves of the Freer Divan of Sultan Ahmad b. Shaykh Uvays (r. 1382–1410) have received a century’s worth of scholarly attention. Yet, their relationship to the Divan’s text, their positions in the manuscript and their near to monochrome execution have never been satisfactorily explained. This article untangles the different stages of the manuscript’s production and concludes that the paintings were added onto the margins around the text during the reign of Sultan Ahmad, but were part of a much more extensive plan that envisioned marginal compositions throughout the manuscript. Contrary to the suggestion that the paintings illustrate mystical stages described in ʿAttar’s Mantiq al-tayr, this article argues that the paintings bear witness to new aesthetics of the illuminated page. Ink-drawn designs of motifs and whole compositions that are now collected in albums, designs’ application as non-narrative painting in anthologies produced for Iskandar b. ʿUmar-Shaykh, and texts written onto gold-painted and tinted paper constitute contemporary comparisons that demonstrate a new taste for decorative design. These comparisons indicate that by combining single motifs in landscape settings, the Freer Divan’s paintings stood at the beginning of an enduring appreciation of monochrome designs as embellishment around written text.