Pasteboard; painted and lacquered
H. 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm), W. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, 1934 (34.23)
The technique of painting on pasteboard under lacquer varnish had been utilized in Persian bookbinding from at least the fifteenth century. Originating in China, the technique was transmitted to Iran as a result of the expanded contacts with China during the Timurid hegemony. However, painters, and not bookbinders, were responsible for the adoption of the technique and its development in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Safavid Iran. Lacquer painting for book covers gained greater popularity during the Zand and Qajar periods (eighteenth century), which also coincides with a gradual decline in the production of leather binding. The bookbinding here, possibly by an artist in the circle of Najaf Ali or Aga Najaf, reflects the pervasive influence of European art on Persian painting in the mid-nineteenth century. Stylistically, the European impact is evident in the pointillist application of color, the modeling of figures and objects, the observation of the rules of perspective, the use of shading, as well as the atmospheric effects. Thematically, biblical scenes were inspired by the availability of European models in the form of devotional prints or paintings.