Lacquer Mirror Case

Painting by Fathallah Shirazi Iranian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 462

The exquisitely painted mirror case has a tan ground covered with a graceful gold grapevine scroll over which the main design has been painted in delicate shades of black. The artist, Fathallah Shirazi, has signed his name and given the date (1295/1878) on one side of the case. The inscription on the other side alludes to the patron but does not give his name. Fathallah was court painter to Nasir al-Din Shah (r. 1848–96), and was highly regarded for his lacquerwork, which is known primarily from a number of penboxes. These most often have a black ground onto which oval scrolls and swags of roses are painted in gold. On this mirror case, however, a variety of sleek birds and robust butterflies are scattered among branches bearing a dazzling array of sumptuous blossoms and bursting buds. This early work of the painter would appear to be the only known example in this particular style.

Lacquer Mirror Case, Painting by Fathallah Shirazi (Iranian, active 1850s–80s), Papier-maché; painted, gilded, and lacquered

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