Lacquer Mirror Case

Artist: Painting by Fathallah Shirazi (Iranian, active 1850s–80s)

Object Name: Mirror case

Date: dated A.H. 1295/ A.D. 1878

Geography: Made in Iran

Medium: Papier-maché; painted, gilded, and lacquered

Dimensions: 2 1/2 x 6 1/16 x 3 1/2 in. (6.4 x 15.4 x 8.9 cm)

Classification: Lacquer

Credit Line: Gift of Irma B. Wilkinson, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.460.2a, b


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.