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According to the Safavid chronicler Dust Muhammad, `Abd al-Hayy trained under Shams al-Din at Baghdad during the reign of the Jalayirid Shaikh Awais Jalayir (reg 1356–74) and became the leading painter under his son Ahmad, who was also `Abd al-Hayy's pupil. When Timur took Baghdad, `Abd al-Hayy was sent to Samarkand, in either 1393 or 1401, where he spent the rest of his life.
He seems to have specialized in monochrome ink drawings. Dust Muhammad recorded that `Abd al-Hayy's pupil, Ahmad Jalayir, contributed a black-and-white drawing to a manuscript of the Abusa`idnama ('Book of Abu Sa`id'), and a number of examples attributed to the late 14th century and preserved in various albums bear the notation that they were copied from `Abd al-Hayy's drawings by Muhammad ibn Mahmud Shah Khayyam. According to the Timurid chronicler Ibn `Arabshah (1392–1450), `Abd al-Hayy was a skilled painter who worked for Timur on wall paintings at Timurid palaces. The wall painting of the woman and child is similar to marginal drawings in a copy of Ahmad Jalayir's Divan, which have also been attributed to `Abd al-Hayy. According to Dust Mohammad, one of `Abd al-Hayy's students was Pir Ahmad Baghshimali.
In his album Dust Muhammad attributed one painting to `Abd al-Hayy. It was detached from a copy of the Divan ('Collected poems') of Khwaju Kermani copied at Baghdad in 1396. The scene of a sleeping youth visited by angels is in the same style as the other paintings in the manuscript, one of which is signed by JUNAYD. Dust Muhammad may have attributed the painting to `Abd al-Hayy because it includes a drawing on the wall of a woman holding an infant and standing in a rocky landscape.
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