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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.109
Title
Pen Box with Battle and Hunting Scenes
Classification
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
Date
1918-19 (H. 1337)
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Qajar period
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/147860
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Opaque and semi-opaque watercolor on prepared pasteboard under shellac varnish
Dimensions
4 x 22.7 x 3.6 cm (1 9/16 x 8 15/16 x 1 7/16 in.)
Provenance
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquities, Teheran, 1973], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1973-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.109
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
On its upper surface, this late example of a Qajar lacquer pen case, signed by Asad Allah Dizfuli, displays a scene of epic battle. Densely packed cavalry troops flank groups of dueling warriors in the foreground, and a clustered mass of stationary cavalry stands at the farthest remove from the action. The expansive scope of the combat is conveyed by receding lines of cavalry stretching toward the horizon, resembling in effect the infinite reflections of a room of mirrors. Without any clear direction of movement or indication of a dominant group that might leave the field victorious, the scene conveys the melee of battle as a series of skirmishes between individuals, some victorious over their foes, others less fortunate. Observing men falling from their horses and awaiting their final dispatch, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the decapitated heads of victims who have already met death, an image that recalls the longstanding trope from Persian historical sources of battlefields littered with heads like balls on polo fields. The sides and base of the pen box continue the theme of martial prowess, though here men mounted on horses and armed with swords, lances, and firearms hunt deer and a lion for sport. The artist unifies these compositionally varied scenes by setting them in developed landscapes of receding planes of grass and other vegetation, with horizons given over to trees and small buildings, each one different from the next, depicted in perspective.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
58

Asad Allah Dizfuli
Pen box with battle and hunting scenes
Iran, Qajar period, dated 1337 (1918–19)
Opaque and semi-opaque watercolor on prepared pasteboard under shellac varnish
4 × 22.7 × 3.6 cm (1 9/16 × 8 15/16 × 1 7/16 in.)
2002.50.109

On its upper surface, this late example of a Qajar lacquer pen case, signed by Asad Allah Dizfuli, displays a scene of epic battle. Densely packed cavalry troops flank groups of dueling warriors in the foreground, and a clustered mass of stationary cavalry stands at the farthest remove from the action. The expansive scope of the combat is conveyed
by receding lines of cavalry stretching toward the horizon, resembling in effect the infinite reflections of a room of mirrors.

Without any clear direction of movement or indication of a dominant group that might leave the field victorious, the scene conveys the melee of battle as a series of skirmishes between individuals, some victorious over their foes, others less fortunate. Observing men falling from their horses and awaiting their final dispatch, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the decapitated heads of victims who have already met death, an image that recalls the longstanding trope from Persian historical sources of battlefields littered with heads like balls on polo fields.

The sides and base of the pen box continue the theme of martial prowess, though here men mounted on horses and armed with swords, lances, and firearms hunt deer and a lion for sport. The artist unifies these compositionally
varied scenes by setting them in developed landscapes of receding planes of grass and other vegetation, with horizons given over to trees and small buildings, each one different from the next, depicted in perspective.

David J. Roxburgh

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 210, cat. 58, ill.

Exhibition History

The Sport of Kings: Art of the Hunt in Iran and India, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/22/2005 - 06/26/2005

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu