It was the view like from the top of a minaret. Like in my dream-- he had captured an angel's eye view, very much like that of a Persian miniature. Pure geometry drawn from the timeless perspective of God; the colors were like that: richly detailed and incredibly vibrant-- the shimmering and rich colors of Herat and Tabriz. Of Delhi seen from the top of a minaret.
Maya said, "symmetry and harmony are inseparable."
There are so many ways to see beauty.
And, so an artist attaches a camera to a kite. He tells me, it is a Japanese kite. Up, up and away... he gazes upon the world as beauty unfolds in front of his eyes like an illuminated manuscript
...of angels, parosols, tigers, tents, dragons and meloncholy princes, and in the process what he hinted at was this: There was a time when Allah looked upon the world in all its uniqueness, and believing in the beauty of what he saw; bequethed his creation to us, his servants. The duty of illustrators and of those who, loving art, gaze upon the world, is to remember the magnificence of what Allah beheld and left to us...
The Sultan's ambassador, Enishte Effendi finds himself in Venice. A renown miniaturist in the service of the Ottoman Court, he is utterly speechless when he sees his first Venetian-style Renaissance paintings. That is to say, the paintings completely boggle his mind.
What could they possibly mean, he wonders?
One painting in particular has him so disturbed he is unable to sleep. It is a portrait- done in the Renaissance style. It is not meant to present a timeless realm, or represent any deeper truths. It does not seek to embellish a tale or illuminate the perspective of God, but rather, he realizes, it is something which stands all on its own.
I learned from the Venetian gentleman who was giving me a tour through the palazzo that the portrait was of a friend, a nobleman like himself. He had included whatever was significant in his life in his portrait: In the background landscape visible from the open window there was a farm, a village and a blending of color which made a realistic-looking forest. Resting on the table before the nobleman were a clock, books, Time, Evil, Life, a calligraphy pen, a map, a compass, boxes containing gold coins, bric-a-brac, odds and ends, inscrutable yet indistinguishable things that were probably included in many pictures, shadows of jinns and the Devil and also a picture of the man's stunningly beautiful daughter as she stood beside her father.
"What was the narrative that this representation was meant to embellish and complete? As I regarded the work, I slowly sensed that the underlying tale was the picture itself. The painting wasn't the extension of a story at all, it was something in its own right.
First, he was absolutely horrified-- just like Su Shi, he must have thought that
while even a child could produce a work of realistic likeness, that only a true scholar and a gentleman was able to create art of moral value; so that-- again-- even from within the confines of the city the viewer could be utterly transported.
When Westerners first came into contact with Chinese painting, they--ironically-- found it childlike for it's lack of a fixed perspective. They actually considered these paintings to be technically lacking!
What they didn't understand was that not all art aimed at realistic likeness; indeed, there are many artistic projects which are aiming at something altogether different.
That was Enishte Effendi first reaction as well. And yet-- and yet!-- he found himself increasingly intrigued by the idea of representing individual people or horses or landscapes. Unable to get the idea out of his head, he thought, "I, too, wanted to be portrayed in this manner."
Telling his idea to Black, Black becomes intrigued as well. For you see, Black is himself deeply in love. And who wants a bird's eye view when you are in love?
Had I taken Shekure's portrait with me, rendered in the style of the Venetian masters, I wouldn't have felt such loss during my long travels when I could scarcely remember my beloved, whose face I'd left somewhere behind me. For if a lover's face survives emblazoned on your heart, the world is still your home.
Yesterday, looking at Nicolas Chorier's beautiful photographs-- windmills and Ottoman miniatures on my mind-- I remembered the ending of My Name is Red; written from the perspective of the hero's beloved, Shekure.
It seems all her life, she too had dreamt of having two paintings made. Like Master Effendi, she longed to have her portrait made in the style of the Europeans. Something in time. She did not seek to be painted as a Chinese beauty. No, she wanted a youthful portrait of herself --a painting of what she really looked like.
And the other painting?
Well, of course, she wanted a painting of perfect bliss. A painting of a mother with her son. She says: " I'd want the bird in the sky to be depicted as if flying, and at the same time, happily and eternally suspended there, in the style of the old masters of Herat who were able to stop time."
"I know it's not easy," she says to her son Orhan-- Orhan Pamuk, who then goes on to write the novel.