This rare lacquer fan consists of twenty wooden blades painted with floral and vegetal scrolls and poetic inscriptions. The design is European whereas the construction is related to nineteenth‑century Cantonese fans exported to Europe in quantity. The verses are rhyming couplets by the renowned Persian mystical poet Hafiz. While luxury objects such as this were often exported and thus tailored to the tastes of Europeans, they were also collected by the Iranian elite.
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Title:Fan with Poetic Verses
Date:dated 1301 AH/1883–84 CE
Geography:Made in Iran, Tehran
Medium:Wood; painted, gilded, and lacquered
Dimensions:H. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm) W. when open 18 1/2 in. (47 cm)
Credit Line:The Moses Lazarus Collection, Gift of Josephine and Sarah Lazarus, in memory of their father, 1888–95
As the patronage of manuscripts and large oil-on-canvas portraits declined in the mid-nineteenth century, artists poured their talents into painting on lacquer. The repertoire of lacquer objects grew beyond pen cases, mirror cases, and caskets to include spectacle cases, bows, tables, playing cards, and fans. Fans like this one are very rare; only a few comparable examples have come to light. An inscription repeated on each blade mentions that the fan was made in Tehran in A.H. 1301/1883–84 A.D.
Consisting of twenty wooden blades painted with floral and vegetal scrolls and inscriptions, the fan is joined at the base by a peg of metal and mother-of-pearl and bound by a red ribbon (both later replacements). The reverse contains a simple floral scroll in gold on a red ground. Eighteen of the twenty blades bear Persian verses in revival naskhi set into rectangular cartouches and medallions. The verses, which consist of couplets from a ghazal (ode) by the renowned fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz, are out of sequence, suggesting that the blades were restrung incorrectly at a later date.
Although the fan is of European design, its construction is related to nineteenth-century Cantonese fans, which were exported to Europe in quantity. Objects like this fan were status symbols and collected by the elite as luxury objects. As with many lacquer objects, they were made for export and were tailored to the demands of the European market. A mid-nineteenth-century European renaissance in fan production and consumption, later fueled by the influx of goods during the international expositions in London and Paris, created an ideal environment for the production of fans such as this. These were not always as sophisticated as lacquer objects made for rulers and princes at the height of the Qajar period, but were exotic and novel enough to impress European consumers.
The nonfigural painting on the fan recalls contemporaneous manuscript illumination (tazhib). This style gained popularity in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and can be seen on all manner of lacquer, including pen boxes, book covers, caskets, and other similar objects. The most renowned and prolific painter of this style was Muhammad Taqi Muzahhib (the Illuminator) Isfahani (active 1853–54 to 1881–82), who headed a workshop in Tehran in the 1880s and was patronized by Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848–96). This fan along with a pen box in the Metropolitan’s collection and a number of lacquer objects at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg were likely produced in that workshop.
Maryam Ekhtiar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Khalili, Nasser D., B[asil] W. Robinson, and Tim Stanley with Manijeh Bayani. Lacquer of the Islamic Lands. The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, edited by Julian Raby, vol. 22. London, 1996–97, pt. 2, pp. 104–5, nos. 312, 313.
2. Metropolitan Museum, Islamic Art Department files.
3. Bates 2008, pl. 31.
4. Metropolitan Museum (no. 67.206.4a, b); Persidskaia zhivopis’ i risunok XV–XIX vekov v sobranii Érmitazha: Katalog vystavki/Persian Painting and Drawing of the Fifteenth–Nineteenth Centuries from the Hermitage Museum. Exhibition, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Catalogue by Adel T. Adamova. Saint Petersburg, 1996, pp. 342–43, pls. 99–100.
Inscription: Persian inscription in naskhi script on top medallion of each blade:
در دارالخلافه تهران صورت اتمام گرفت
Completed in the capital city of Tehran
On bottom medallion:
١٣٠١ / 1883–1884
Dated A.H. 1301/1883–1884 A.D.
Verses by Hafiz on each blade (not in original sequence):
دوش آگهى ز یار سفر کرده داد باد من نیز دل به یاد دهم هرچه باد باد
کارم بدان رسید که همراز خود کن هر شام برق لامع و هر بامداد باد
در چین طره تو دل بی حفاظ من هرگز نگفت مسکن مالوف یاد باد
امروز قدر پند عزیزان شناختم یا رب روان ناصح ما از تو شاد باد
خون شد دلم به یاد تو هرگه که در چمن بند قبای غنچه گل می گشاد باد
از دست رفته بود وجود ضعیف من صبحم به بوی وصل تو جان باز داد باد
حافظ نهاد نیک تو کامت برآورد جان ها فدای مردم ن کیو نهاد باد
Last night the wind reminded me of my distant beloved.
I, too, shall give my heart to the wind; whatever happens, happens.
I reached the point where I made my confidants
Every evening’s glittering light and every morning’s wind.
In the curls of your tresses, my unprotected heart
Never yearned for home.
Today I cherish the advice of the dear ones.
O lord, bless the spirits of our advisers.
My heart bled, remembering you
Whenever the wind untied the cloak of the blooming rosebud in the meadow.
My frail body had almost died
Before the wind rejuvenated it with the scent of reunion with you.
Hafiz, your good nature will fulfill your wish.
May many souls be sacrificed for good-natured people.
(Translations from "Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2011, p. 278).
The Moses Lazarus Collection, New York (until 1890; gifted to MMA)
New York. Leubsdorf Gallery at Hunter College. "Re-Orientations: Islamic Art and the West in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries," February 7, 2008–April 26, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.
Bates, Ülkü. Re-Orientations: Islamic Art and the West in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New York, 2008. no. 31, pp. 92–93, ill.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 195, pp. 278–79, ill. p. 279 (color).
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