top Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Ahmad ibn Najaf `Ali
Pen Box with Amorous Couples and Portrait Medallions
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Isfahan
Qajar period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Opaque watercolor, gold-colored pigments, and lacquer over brass layer on pasteboard
3.7 × 3.6 × 23.6 cm (1 7/16 × 1 7/16 × 9 5/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: احمد ابن نجفعلي۱۲۸۱
    Ahmad ibn Najaf `Ali 1864-65
Ezzat-Malek Soudavar, Geneva, Switzerland (by 2014), by descent; to her son Abolala Soudavar, Houston, Texas (2014), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2014.

Ezzat-Malek Soudavar (1913-2014) formed this collection over a period of sixty years. She purchased the works of art on the international art market.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of A. Soudavar in memory of his mother Ezzat-Malek Soudavar
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Cover and sliding compartment with rounded ends. The top is decorated in horizontal format with three cartouches framed by elaborate gold scrollwork, all set against a black background filled with floating blossoms. The central cartouche features a vignette of couples reclining against cushions in an interior setting; they drink wine and embrace. To the left and right are portrait busts of European women with flowers in their hair. The sides are composed and decorated in the same manner with couples engaged in amorous play and portrait busts of European women. The ends bear portrait busts of men. The base is painted with an arabesque on a gold background.

Publication History

Massumeh Farhad and Mary McWilliams, ed., A Collector’s Passion: Ezzat-Malek Soudavar and Persian Lacquer, Harvard Art Museums and Freer/Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution (Cambridge, MA/Washington, D.C., 2017), p. 134, cat. 106

David Roxburgh, ed., An Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2017), p. 61, fig. 2, detail; p. 99

David Roxburgh and Mary McWilliams, ed., Technologies of the Image: Art in 19th-Century Iran, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2017), pp. 45-47, fig. 38; pp. 154-155, cat. 68

Exhibition History

Technologies of the Image: Art in 19th-Century Iran, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/26/2017 - 01/07/2018

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