When Black sees Orhan’s face, he realizes that he has been remembering Shekure’s face wrongly. He thinks that if he had taken a portrait of Shekure painted in the Venetian realist style on his travels, he would have felt as if he had never left home. Seeing Orhan made Black desperate to sneak through the house to see Shekure, but he reminds himself that the last time he impulsively revealed his love for Shekure, he was forced to leave Istanbul for 12 years. Meanwhile, Enishte explains that the Sultan wants to have the secret book finished in time for the one-thousandth anniversary of the Hegira (the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina). This will be a lot of work for the miniaturists, who will also be working on the Book of Festivities. Enishte tells Black that he should go to see Master Osman, who Enishte believes is now blind and senile. Enishte has been given responsibility over the secret manuscript even though he is not a master illustrator, which has caused Master Osman to resent him.
This passage highlights issues among the miniaturists that have nothing to do with weighty questions of religious virtue and sin, but rather much more ordinary matters, such as romance, favoritism, and jealousy. After 12 years, Black is more in love with Shekure then ever, but respect for his uncle forces him to completely ignore the fact that she is in the house with him. Black feels closer to Shekure through seeing Orhan, even though it must also be painful to see the face of a child Shekure had with another man. Meanwhile, the politics of the royal manuscript illumination workshop demonstrate part of the reason why the book has become so controversial, even aside from the serious religious dilemmas it provokes.
Black looks at the objects in Enishte’s house and recalls the happy time in his youth he spent painting in the house and being with Shekure. He describes painting and happiness as “the genesis of my world.” Even though Black’s love for Shekure forced him to leave the “paradise” of Enishte’s house, he is grateful for this, as it allowed him to see both the positive and negative sides of the world. Enishte brings up the topic of death, and says he is not afraid of death itself but is afraid of dying before finishing the book. Black promises to tell Enishte about everything he learns during his visits with the miniaturists, kisses his uncle’s hand, and leaves.
During this moment of reflection, Black thinks of his life in religious terms. He describes painting and happiness as “the genesis of my world,” an allusion to the Genesis narrative which describes how God created the world. Similarly, Black’s exile from the “paradise” of Enishte’s house resembles the exile of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, a story depicted in both the Bible and the Koran.
Black rides away on his horse and sees a large, “boisterous” Jewish woman dressed in pink. The woman remarks that Black is as handsome as people say. She introduces herself as Esther, and asks if Black would like to buy some silk from her. When Black says no, Esther remarks that he surely must have a secret lover whom he’d like to give a gift. Suddenly, Esther hands Black a letter, which he takes quickly. Esther directs Black to a pomegranate tree, and when he arrives a window opens to reveal the face of Shekure. Black cannot tell if she is smiling or sad, and the moment reminds him of a scene from the tale of Shirin and Hüsrev. He notes the similarity between this great love story and the story of himself and Shekure.
Black’s rumination on the tale of Shirin and Hüsrev emphasizes the idea that the characters in the novel understand their own lives through a mosaic of other stories—whether religious stories (as in the passage above) or stories from the Islamic literary tradition, such as the romance of Shirin and Hüsrev. Of course, this scene itself resembles a fairy tale. Black, the handsome man riding through the city on a horse, is the classic image of a hero, while Shekure gazing out of her window is like a maiden imprisoned in a tower, waiting for a magic spell to unite her with her love.