Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Pen Box (Qalamdan) with Inscriptions

Hasan Ramadan Shahi
Object Name:
Pen box
early 16th century
Attributed to Iran
Brass; chased, engraved, and inlaid with silver
Box: L. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm)
H. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
D. 4 in. (10.2 cm)
Spoon: L. 4 1/2in. (11.4cm)
H. 3/8 in. (1 cm)
D. 9/16 in (1.4 cm)
Wt. 0.14 oz. (4 g)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1975
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 462
This pen box is decorated with bold thuluth calligraphic inscriptions and interlaced floral arabesques. The particular floral ornament, as well as the epigraphic style, is typical of Iranian metalwork dating to the late 15th and early 16th century.
The inscriptions contain prayers to Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as blessings to the owner, and the name of the engraver (Hasan Ramadan Shahi).
The interior of the box is divided into compartments to hold reed pen(s), the inkwell, and a sandpot. The high esteem of the calligrapher and his art is demonstrated by the lavish nature of this carefully crafted object, which would have both safeguarded and displayed his tools.
Inscription: Arabic, thulth script; translation:
-On the LID there are two poems in Arabic: "Victory from God and a near conquest at hand. Bring to the believers the good news of Muhammad, the best messenger. O `Ali! O God! Pray on Muhammad al-Mustafa (the chosen), Imam `Ali al-Murtada (with whom God is pleased), Imam Hasan al-Rida, Imam Husayn the martyr in Karbala, Imam `Ali b. Zayn al-`Abidayn, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (the lion), Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (the truthful), Imam Musa al-Kazim (the constrained),Imam `Ali Musa al-Rida, Imam Muhammad al-Taqi (the pious), Imam `Ali al-Naqi (the pure), Imam al-Hasan al-`Askari (the soldier), and Imam, the proof of the everlasting, Muhammad al-Mahdi (the guided) the possessor of time. God, the exalted, the almighty has told the truth. Call `Ali the revealer of miracles, you will find him a comfort in (times of) distress, Every care and sorrow will be dispelled, Muhammad... Through your divine friendship, `Ali, `Ali, `Ali, `Ali, `Ali. Written and made by the Mawla Yusuf Naqqash Farisi";
-BODY in Persian: "To its owner happiness, security and life as long as a dove coos, (may there be) an outcome of obvious goodness... until the Day of Judgement." (Trans. Yasser al-Tabba, 1978; corrections and additions by Linda Komaroff, 1982).
-INTERIOR PANEL: "Made... month of Ramadan" or "Work of Hasan Ramadan Shahi". (Trans. M. Keene)
- Inscriptions within medallions on cover are unread.

On lid (large inscription) is a Persian poem in Thuluth script:
بداده ام رونق مردم ساختم کان قلم تا کنم بر صفحه دل حساد رقم

On lid (small inscription) in Arabic in thuluth script:
اللهم صل علی محمد المصطفی و امام علي المرتضی و امام حسن الرضا و امام حسین الشهید بکربلا و امام زین العابدین و امام محمد الباقر و امام جعفر الصادق و امام موسی الکاظم و امام علي بن موسی الرضا و امام حجة القائم الدائم محمد المهدي صاحب الزمان صدق الله العلي العظیم.
ناد علیاً مظهر العجائبي تجده عونا لک في النوائبي
کل هم و غم سینجلي بنبوتک یا محمد بولایتک یا علي یا علي یا علي یا علي
نصر من الله و فتح قریب و بشر المؤمنین یا محمد و علی خیرا البشر
Name of metalworker in Arabic in Thuluth:
کتبه و صنعه .... فارسي
On the sides in Arabic in thuluth script:
لصاحبه السلامة و طول العمر ما ناحت حمامة/ ابدا سرمدا الی یوم القیامة
And in Persian in thuluth script:
عاقبت خیر باد
The name of metalworker is written inside in Thuluth script:
عمل حسین رمضان شاهي
The inscription also read by Yassir al-Tabba as:
beginning with the upper right hand corner نصر من الله و فتح قریب و بشر المؤمنین بمحمد خیر البشر یا علي اللهم صل علی محمد المصطفی و امام علی المرتضی و امام حسن الرضا و امام حسین شهید بکربلا و امام علی زین العابدین و امام محمد الباقر و امام جعفر الصادق و امام موس الکاظم و امام علی موسی الرضا و امام محمد التقیي و امام علی النقي وامام الحسن العسکري و امام حجة القادم الدلیم محمد المهدي صاحب الزمان صدق الله العلی العظیم ناد علیا مظهر العجائبی (العجائب) تجده عونا لک فی النوائبی کل هم و غم سینجلی .... یامحمد بولایتک یا علی یا علی یا علی یا علی
کتبه و صنعه مولا یوسف نقاش فارسی
لصاحبه السعاده و السلامه و طول العمر ما ناحت حمامه عاقبة خیر باد .... الی یوم القیامه
[ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, in 1943]; Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, November 19, 1975, nos. 184, 205, to MMA
Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan. "Metalworks from Islamic Lands," February 25, 1943–March 11, 1943, no. 57.

Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 58.

University of Michigan. "Rackham Building February 25–March 11, 1943." In Metalwork from Islamic Countries. Ann Arbor, 1943. no. 57, p. 15.

"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 58, pp. 150-151, ill. p. 151 (b/w).

Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). p. 19, ill. fig. 23b (b/w).

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