Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Pen Box (Qalamdan) with Bird and Flower Design

Object Name:
Pen box
A.H. 1320/ A.D. 1902
Made in Iran
Papier-maché; painted, gilded, and lacquered
H. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm) W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm) D: 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1967
Accession Number:
Not on view
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Iran witnessed a proliferation in the production of lacquer objects. Regarded as desirable possessions and status symbols, painted lacquerwares were commissioned by royal and elite patrons, sold commercially and exported abroad in quantity. Lacquer painters took great pride in their individual styles, which they demonstrated by signing and dating their works.
This pen box is covered with floral and vegetal imagery, a common motif in later Persian art. The artist, Muhammad-i Qalamdansaz (literally, Muhammad The Pen Box-maker), has dated and signed this work "Shahanshah-i Anbiya, Muhammad" (King of the Prophets), a play on his name and that of the Prophet.
Though the artist has chosen to work with a limited palette of black on an ivory background, what it lacks in color is made up in detail by the careful shading of the flowers and vegetation.
Signature: Shahanshah-i anbiya, Muhammad.
The artist, Muhammad Qalamdansaz, often signed his works as above.
[ Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, Germany, until 1967; sold to MMA]
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