Early the next morning, Black slips out and goes to the mosque to pray. He then goes to Master Osman’s house and onto the palace, where he and Osman meet the Commander of the Imperial Guard and his men. The Commander tells them that the Sultan is confident that they will be able to determine the murderer based on the horse-drawing competition and that they will be able to torture him straight away, without further investigation. However, Master Osman only looks at the drawings for a few seconds before announcing that the murderer has not left a flaw or signature through which he could be traced. The Sultan enters, and Osman tells him that they have not had any success with the drawings. Osman asks that they be allowed to enter the Royal Treasury in order to study the archive of manuscripts housed there and search for the historical origins of the murderer’s stylistic signature. Black is stunned by Osman’s boldness and fears that he will be killed without ever seeing Shekure again.
Master Osman carries himself with the confidence of a widely-respected, elderly authority figure. He is rigid in his ideas, has no patience for dissent, and is unafraid of being stubborn and demanding even in front of the Sultan. Because Master Osman represents the traditional, conservative side of artistic practice, it follows that these qualities also apply to artistic conservatism, too. To some extent, these qualities constitute a positive side of artistic conservatism; after all, sticking to tradition means that one is not easily persuaded by greed, power, or the changing fashions of a given era. On the other hand, Black fears that Osman’s stubbornness could also prove dangerous.
To Black’s surprise, the Sultan does grant them permission. As they enter the treasury, the Head Treasurer introduces them to Jemzi Agha, a dwarf wearing a strange headdress who will show them around. The treasury is extremely dark and smells of dust and mildew. Black feels frightened by the chamber and the huge array of objects held within it. Master Osman asks to see the books that Shah Tahmasp sent as a gift 25 years ago. Black is stunned by the illustrations, but Osman looks through the books too quickly for him to get a proper look. They look at illustrations depicting scenes of war, love, and religion. Osman expertly picks out small flaws and stylistic signatures in the paintings and points out how the painters were influenced by the traditions that came before them, stating: “To paint is to remember.” Black meditates on the nature of painting, and wonders if Osman is really searching for clues about the murderer or just taking the opportunity to look through these legendary books.
Black’s relationship to Master Osman is complex and difficult to define. On one level, Black admires Osman and trusts his judgment in the search for the murderer. (Indeed, Black has fairly little choice but to follow Osman’s lead, due to Osman’s position of seniority). However, Black is also suspicious of Osman, and he wonders if Osman is using the task of finding the murderer simply as an excuse to look through the Royal Treasury. Although not mentioned explicitly here, this suspicion is mutual; after all, Master Osman and Enishte were enemies, and thus Osman has good reason to distrust Black. Black and Osman are united, however, by their passionate interest in miniature painting, allowing them to temporarily put aside their differences.
At times, Black grows exhausted from looking at all the paintings and has to take a break. Eventually, Master Osman concludes that by imitating the paintings that came before them, miniaturists have “depicted the gradual transformation of their world into another.” At the time of evening prayers, one of the Sultan’s men opens the door to the treasury to usher Black and Osman out; however, Osman says that he does not wish to leave. Black chooses to stay with him, but immediately regrets it.
Master Osman’s statement about the miniaturists depicting the transformation of their world has two possible meanings. It could refer to the way that artists document the historical change happening around them; however, it could also mean that by changing the way people view the world, artists in fact propel that change through their work.