© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.111
Title
Pen Box with Birds, Flowers, and Butterflies
Classification
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
Date
18th-19th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Qajar period
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/160304
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Opaque and semi-opaque watercolor and shell-gold flakes on prepared pasteboard under shellac varnish
Dimensions
4.4 x 24.2 x 3.7 cm (1 3/4 x 9 1/2 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
2002.50.111
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
The upper surface of this pen box (qalamdan) is divided into three lobed cartouches outlined in gold, their interstices filled with golden palmettes and flowers. A bird-and-flower composition uniting nightingale, rose, and blossoming branch dominates the center cartouche. The flanking compartments, one broadly mirroring the other save changes in palette, contain prunus blossoms, a tulip, and hovering butterflies that gather nectar from and pollinate the plants. The background of the pen box is a deep reddish brown flecked with particles of gold; it provides the ideal contrast for the bright colors used in the bird-and- flower designs. The coloristic effect of the palette—greens, white, blues, pinks, browns, and reds—has been unified by the layers of shellac varnish applied to the surface as a final stage. The sides of the pen box continue the subject matter of the upper face, similarly structured in three compositional groupings; the principal difference is that the birds directly confront the winged insects amid miniature floral thickets.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
55

Pen box with birds, flowers, and butterflies
Iran, Qajar period, 18th–19th century
Opaque and semi-opaque watercolor and shell-gold flakes on prepared pasteboard under shellac varnish
4.4 × 24.2 × 3.7 cm (1 3/4 × 9 1/2 × 1 7/16 in.)
2002.50.111

The upper surface of this pen box (qalamdān) is divided into three lobed cartouches outlined in gold, their interstices filled with golden palmettes and flowers. A bird-and-flower composition uniting nightingale, rose, and blossoming branch dominates the center cartouche. The flanking compartments, one broadly mirroring the other save for changes in palette, contain prunus blossoms, a tulip, and hovering butterflies that gather nectar from and pollinate the plants. The background of the pen box is a deep reddish brown flecked with particles of gold; it provides the ideal contrast for the bright colors used in the bird-and-flower designs. The coloristic effect of the palette—greens, white, blues, pinks, browns, and reds—has been unified by the layers of shellac varnish applied to the surface as a final stage. The sides of the pen box continue the subject matter of the upper face, similarly structured in three compositional groupings; the principal difference is that the birds directly confront the winged insects amid miniature floral thickets.

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), pp. 67-69, ill.; p. 207, cat. 55, ill.

Exhibition History

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