Pictures and miniatures which may be considered representative of Türkish art are found in abundance in the illuminated manuscripts and picture albums in the Topkapi Saray Museum, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, the Yildiz Collection of the University Library, and other libraries.
Most of these albums belong to the medieval phase of Eastern Turkish culture, and to Ilhanî, Qaraqoyunlu and Aqqoyunlu, Safevî and Osmanh periods which are a continuation of it in the West, Turkish, Chinese, Uygur as well as Persian artists have worked on these albums. For this reason, the tendency shown by some writers to consider Turkish only the works of art belonging to the Osmanh period, and to ascribe Eastern Turkish works of art to Persia would be a serious mistake. Only by careful study can Turkish and Persian motifs be distinguished and the Turkish ones restored to their rightful place in our cultural history.
Our only guide in deciding on the origin of a miniature is the scientific method. The language in which the text of the volüme is written or what historical event is told in the pictures are not adequate proofs of the nationality of the artists and their artistic works. What is important is the fact that the painter has created the pictures under the influence of contemporary life and as events of a society he is familiar with. For instance, when examining a copy of the “Iskenderna-me” by Nizamî or the “Behramname” we must find otıt, if possible, when and to which monarch it was dedicated, or for whose library it was prepared. In such Works, contemporary princes are often depicted as Alexander or Behram. In the various copies of the “Iskendername” of the second half of the XIV century Timur, in those of the first half of the XV century, Shahruh Mirza or his son Baysungur are pictured as Alexander. The life, battles, tents, and horses depicted in these works show, not Alexander’s time, but the court and public life, armies, and battles of the Chaghatais at the time of Timur and his sons. On the first page of some volumes, we see the picture of the ruler to whom it was dedicated. In a copy of the Shahname (Topkapi Saray, H. 1479 and dated 731/1331) prepared for the treasury of Vezir Giyaseddin Mu-hammed (that is, Reshideddin’s son), the first two pages show the ruling monarch surrounded by his courtiers, who undoubtedly is the Ilhanî king, Ebusaid Khan. On the first page of a copy of the Khamse by Nizamî in the Lahore Museum, a king is shown with his courtiers, only it is mentioned that it is Shirvanshah Khalil, from which we learn that the pictures were inspired by Azerbaidjan and the society of its rulers.
In some cases, we have some Information on the artists. For instance, in the works from the Ilhanî period, we find signatures of painters like Ahmet Lachin, Musa, and his son Ahmet Musa or notes attributing the pictures to them. Similarly, we understand that the works of art produced at the time of Chazan and Uldjaytu Khans and Reshideddin were created by 22 Turkish or Mongol, or Chinese painters who are referred to as “Gulâmâ-n Türk” 1 in the records of the pious foundation endowed by the same Vezir. The records mention them each by name, their duties, and their wages. And the Tabriz origin of many artists is mentioned. Among these for Timur’s painter Khodja Ali Musavvir (Ali-Khodja, or simple Ali or Mevlânâ Ali) is given before his nisbe “Tabrizı” also the nisbe “al-Khorezmi”.