Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Inscribed Pen Box

Object Name:
Pen box
15th century
Attributed to Iran
Brass; engraved and inlaid with silver and gold
L. 11 1/2 in. (29.2 cm) H. 2 3/8 in. (6.0 cm) W. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 455
This brass pen box was made in the late fourteenth century but significantly altered by the mid-fifteenth century. The interior decoration of a small-scale pattern of roundels with flying birds and running motifs provides a glimpse into the original decoration of the box. After the exterior surface was burnished to remove this original decoration, new patterns, including a series of interlocking medallions and cartouches and incised lotus blossoms, were set against a cross-hatched background. The inkwell and surrounding insert were added at a yet later date. The inscriptions in thuluth and naskh scripts include poetic verses and good wishes to the owner.
Inscription: - On the lid: "To its owner happiness, security, longevity as long as a pigeon coos, eternally, forever until the Day of Judgement. And may glory, prosperity, and achievement continue for him as long as the sun and the moon rise... ";
-hasp: "May the outcome be good". Translation by Yassir al-Tabba (1978)

Top to bottom:
In thuluth script:
لصاحبه السعادة و السلامة وطول العمر ما ناحت حمامة
ابداً سرمداً الی یوم القیامة
دوامة له العز و الاقبال و الظفـ[ـر] ما طلعت الشمس و القمر
ظلاً له و بدوام و ادمع؟
Two Persian poems, the first by Hafiz in thuluth script:

از خون دل نوشتم نزدیک یار نامه اني رأیت من هجرک القیامة
سر بر ندارم ز خطت چون قلم گر سرم بر داري از بن چون دوات

On the lock in thulth script in Persian:
بخیر گشایت مبارک باد

Inside the box there are some illegible inscriptions such as الطباطبائي .

The inscription also read by Yassir al-Tabba as:
لصاحبه السعادة و السلامة و طول العمر ما ناحت حمامة/ ادا سرمدا الی یو(م) القیامه/ و داما لک (له) العز و الاقبال و الظفر/ ماطلعت الشمس و القمر/ ....
عاقبت خیر باد
Edward C. Moore (American, New York 1827–1891 New York), New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
Komaroff, Linda. "Pen-Case and Candlestick: Two Sources for the Development of Persian Inlaid Metalwork." Metropolitan Museum Journal 23 (1988). pp. 91, 93, 94, ill. fig. 3.

Related Objects

Pen Box (Qalamdan) with Inscriptions

Date: early 16th century Medium: Brass; chased, engraved, and inlaid with silver Accession: 1975.350.1a–c On view in:Gallery 462

Dragon-Handled Jug with Inscription

Date: late 15th– first quarter 16th century Medium: Brass; cast and turned, engraved, and inlaid with silver, gold, and black organic compound Accession: 91.1.607 On view in:Gallery 455

Inlaid Ewer

Date: late 15th– first quarter 16th century Medium: Brass; cast and turned, engraved, inlaid with silver and black compound Accession: 91.1.611 On view in:Gallery 455

Inkwell with Floral and Animal Imagery

Date: 16th century Medium: Brass; lid cast, body worked, engraved, and chased, inlaid with silver Accession: 41.120a, b On view in:Gallery 455

"Tahmuras Defeats the Divs", Folio 23v from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp

Artist: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020) Date: ca. 1525 Medium: Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper Accession: 1970.301.3 On view in:Gallery 462