The murderer asks why he should conceal his identity from the reader any longer. He is content sitting with the other miniaturists reminiscing over their happy memories. It is as if they are describing a different world, full of people and objects that no longer exist. The miniaturists agree that it was a bad thing when the Sultan ordered them to start working from home. They discuss scenes they’ve painted as if they were their own memories. Suddenly, the murderer declares that Master Osman will either betray and kill them, or they should betray and kill him. There is a stunned silence; then the other miniaturists pounce on the murderer and pin him to the ground. Black demands that the murderer tell him the location of the last picture, pressing a knife to his throat. The other miniaturists slap the murderer, but he only smiles and says nothing. One of the miniaturists kisses the murder passionately, before beating him.
Throughout the novel the characters make reference to the intense fraternal bond that the miniaturists developed during their youth, but it is only in the final chapters that this bond is actually shown in a significant way. At the time the novel is set, each of the miniaturists has developed the flaws and anxieties of adulthood; however, for just a moment they are able to put these troubles and differences aside in order to reminisce about happier times. Even after the three miniaturists turn on Olive and Black holds him at gunpoint, a trace of the affection and intensity of their “brotherhood” remains when one of the miniaturists passionately kisses him.
Black takes out the needle and explains that 80 years ago the great master Bihzad used it to blind himself. He adds that the previous night, Master Osman used it to blind himself in the Royal Treasury, and he threatens to do the same to the murderer. The murderer responds that it doesn’t matter if this happens, as the eventual death of Osman and the takeover of the European style will mean that the miniaturists have no future anyway. The other miniaturists try to restrain Black and there is another scuffle, during which the murderer is blinded in both eyes. The murderer demands that they get off him so he can see everything for the last time, but first Black demands that he explain how he killed Elegant. The murderer explains that he had been heading home from the coffeehouse when Elegant confronted him about the pictures for Enishte’s book, which Elegant considered to be “heresy.”
Although the murderer is arguably only putting up a front of toughness, his comments in response to Black’s threat to blind him are important. Blindness is mostly thought of as a positive state of being in the novel, a reward from Allah given to the truest miniaturists. However, this idea requires there to always be a new generation of miniaturists to take over from the ageing, blinded masters. As the murderer points out, it seems that there will soon be no more masters working in the miniaturist tradition anyway. Miniaturist painting—as a way of seeing as well as a set of visual images—will disappear, a far more permanent kind of blindness.
Black asks if the murderer killed both Elegant and Enishte; the murderer evades the question, claiming that there was nothing truly blasphemous about the book, but that Enishte liked to pretend that there was. He then goes on to explain that he brought Elegant to the dervish lodge, where Elegant begged the murderer to assure him that they would not go to hell as the Hoja of Erzurum claimed. Then the murderer says that when he offered Elegant money, this proved how “wretched” Elegant was. The murderer insists that any of the miniaturists would also have killed Elegant for their fellow artists. The miniaturists agree that they would have, and the murderer begins to cry. He tells them that he killed Enishte quickly, and that just before he killed him he asked Enishte if he had a style of his own. Black comments that everyone secretly wishes to have a signature style, and the murderer comments: “All illumination is God’s illumination.”
Once again, the murderer is brought to tears by the other miniaturists’ demonstration of solidarity and friendship. His suggestion that Enishte liked the idea that the book was blasphemous is not implausible; most of the characters in the novel are shown to be rather vain and egotistical, and it thus could be possible that Enishte was flattered by the rumors circulating about the book. Meanwhile, although the murderer’s statement that “All illumination is God’s illumination” is meant to demonstrate that he doesn’t have an individual style, this claim also echoes the argument that East and West belong to God.
The murderer demands to be let go so he can see the world one last time, and Black insists that he show them the last illustration. The murderer takes out the picture, yet—in the place where the portrait of the Sultan should be—there lies the murderer’s own face, situated “at the center of a vast world.” The murderer tells them that he is not worried about realist representation or idolatry, and that idolatry is in fact what he wants. He admits that he may have murdered Elegant and Enishte in order to create this picture, but that now that it’s done, he feels completely isolated and humiliated for his lack of skill compared to the European painters. He says he pities Shekure because she had to marry Black, and that if everything hadn’t happened the way it did Shekure would have happily married the murderer himself. Finally, he claims that even if miniaturists embraced the European style, they could only hope to become weak imitators of it. Akbar, the Sultan of Hindustan, is gathering the best miniaturists from far and wide. The miniaturists could leave Istanbul and create a truly great book in the traditional style there.
The murderer’s final statements to the other miniaturists take the form of a rather incoherent ramble, covering a strange variety of topics and opinions. Although the murderer feels no shame about having portrayed himself instead of the Sultan, he does feel shame about his lack of skill compared to the European painters. This admission suggests that underlying the charge that the European style is blasphemous may be a hint of jealousy about the European painters’ mastery of their own techniques. Furthermore, the murderer’s statement that he would have married Shekure suggests that he is arrogant to the point of being delusional. It is possible that his plan to flee to Hindustan is also nothing more than a desperate delusion.
Stork condemns the murderer for speaking in such a “high and mighty” way. The murderer considers killing the three men, but he feels “only affection” for them. Instead, he repeats Enishte’s words: “To God belongs the East and West,” to which Black responds: “But is East is east and West is west.” The murderer asks to kiss Butterfly, but just as he is about to do so Black lunges for the murderer and trips over a small table. The murderer grabs Black and holds a dagger to his neck. Black tells the murderer that his blood may clot, causing him to go blind, or it may not; this will depend on whether Allah is pleased with his work as a painter. The murderer says he will “practice genuine artistry” once he is in Hindustan. He tells Black that he could kill him right now, but will spare his life for the sake of Shekure’s happiness, and he makes Black promise to take care of her. However, the murderer then moves to kill Black anyway; Black dodges, and the knife sinks into his shoulder. While Black moans in agony, Stork leaves the room. The murderer kisses Butterfly and flees.
Stork and Black’s interactions with the murderer lead them to behave in a contrarian manner. Stork accuses the murderer of speaking in a “high and mighty” way, when Stork himself has a conceited attitude. Meanwhile, Black insists that “East is east and West is west,” when he—following Enishte—was an advocate of the adoption of the European style by painters in Istanbul. It seems that Stork and Black refuse to acknowledge that, even though the murderer has committed terrible sins, he may also be making some true and wise statements. At the same time, Stork and Black’s suspicion of the murderer is well-founded; even after the murderer appears to show sympathy and affection for his “brothers,” he betrays them again and attempts to kill Black.
The murderer darts through the empty streets of Istanbul, tears streaming from his eyes. He goes to the workshop, and there hears the strange voice of someone claiming to be Shevket’s uncle (Hasan). Hasan assumes that the murderer is one of Black’s men, and before the murderer can move, Hassan cuts the murderer’s head off. The murderer does not die straight away, but rather remains stuck in an in-between moment that is “bitter and tedious.”
The fact that the murderer dies at Hasan’s hands is significant. In the complex world of Istanbul society, everyone has both friends and enemies, with alliances and prejudices regularly forming for rather dubious reasons. In such a climate, it is hardly surprising (and rather fitting) that the murderer would accidentally be killed by someone who does not even realize his true identity.