Black has sent Shekure and the boys to a distant relative’s house to hide. In the midst of a sleepless night, she sees Black staggering toward the house. He asks her to call the children, telling her there is nothing to fear anymore and that they can go home. Shekure fears that Black is going to die as she helps to mount him on a horse. Back at home, Shekure and Hayrire tend to Black’s wounds. Esther bursts into the house and joyously declares that Olive’s head was found outside the workshop and that the pictures in his satchel proved he was the murderer. Shekure gives Esther four gold coins and Esther leaves. Shekure then gets into bed with the naked Black, and they have oral sex, both of them overcome with happiness.
This passage constitutes the happy ending that comes at the conclusion of a conventional murder mystery plot. The murderer’s identity has been revealed and he has been punished, while the hero, Black, having narrowly avoided being murdered himself, can finally be at peace. This creates a ripple effect of happiness in the community, with Esther receiving a handsome reward for her work and Shekure being so happy that she is willing to engage in the sex act that she previously found abhorrent.
Black lives for 26 years before dropping dead next to the well one day. In the intervening time, Shekure and the boys are happy, but Black remains melancholy for the rest of his life, supposedly because his wounds never heal. In reality, Shekure believes he is possessed by a jinn, which causes him to drink wine and chase after young boys with the other miniaturists. In four years after the story ends, the Sultan dies, and is replaced by Sultan Mehmed, “who turned his back entirely on all artistry.” The Queen of England sends Mehmed an elaborate clock as a gift, but Mehmed destroys it with a hammer. Rather than being taken over by the European style, the tradition of painting in Istanbul dies altogether. Enishte’s book is never finished; Hasan flees and is never heard from again. Master Osman dies two years after going blind, and Stork becomes Head Illuminator. Butterfly spends the rest of his life drawing ornamental designs for fabric.
While the passage above presented a tidy “happily ever after,” this passage describes what happens after that “ever after,” and reveals that this state of happiness does not last. This twist confirms the fact that life is full of turmoil and highly unpredictable. While the entire novel up to this point rested on the tension between the European and Islamic artistic traditions, in the end Sultan Mehmed’s total disdain for all forms of art means that neither tradition survives in Istanbul, and all the conflict over the European style was for nothing.
Shekure has always dreamed of two paintings: a portrait of herself, and “a picture of bliss,” which she imagines in the form of a mother with her two children. Orhan tells Shekure that the picture of bliss is not possible to depict, and Shekure considers that perhaps he is right, as people look for happiness in life, not in painting. She concludes by saying that she has told this story to Orhan and given him the letters she exchanged with Hasan and Black, as well as the illustrations that remain from Enishte’s book. However, she warns the reader that Orhan may have embellished the narrative, as he is happy to lie in service of “a delightful and convincing story.”
The final passage of the novel provides a clever twist on the theme of storytelling and narrative perspective. Orhan is, of course, also the name of the novel’s author; while throughout the book the fact that this is also Shekure’s son’s name seems purely coincidental, in this final passage it is revealed not to be a coincidence at all. Does this mean that Orhan the character simply imagines all the other narrative perspectives in the novel? It is left up to the reader to decide.