Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bookcover with Christian Themes

Object Name:
mid-19th century
Attributed to Iran
Pasteboard; painted and lacquered
H. 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm)
W. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, 1934
Accession Number:
Not on view
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, which also coincides with a gradual decline in the production of leather binding. The bookbinding here reflects the pervasive influence of European art on Persian painting in this period. Stylistically, the European impact is evident in the gradations 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. The book cover is probably by a Qajar artist in the circle of Najaf Ali.
Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, New York (until 1934; gifted to MMA)
Baltimore Museum of Art. "The History of Bookbinding 525–1950A.D.," November 12, 1957–January 12, 1958, no. 100.

Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte islamico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 34.

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.

Walters Art Museum. "An Exhibition Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art November 12, 1957–January 12, 1958." In The History of Bookbinding, 525–1950 AD. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 1957. no. 100.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 34, pp. 112-113, ill. p. 113 (b/w).

Bates, Ülkü. Re-Orientations: Islamic Art and the West in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New York, 2008. no. 4, pp. 40–42, ill.

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