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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Muhammad Isma`il
Pen Box with Armenian Priests and Europeans
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Isfahan
Qajar period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Opaque watercolor, gold-colored pigments, brass particles, and lacquer over brass layer on pasteboard
3.7 × 4.1 × 24.7 cm (1 7/16 × 1 5/8 × 9 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Top:
    عمل اسمعيل۱۲۷۴
    The work of Isma`il, 1857-58

    [Inscribed on the sides and base are verses from the tarji` band by Hatif Isfahani.]

    Inside cover (maker’s seal):
    عبده الرجي محمد جواد۱۲۷۱
    His [God’s] hopeful servant Muhammad Javad, 1854-55


Recorded Ownership History
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 a crowd dressed in European clothing paying homage to an Armenian priest with acolytes, a domed building with bell towers in the background, and Europeans riding on horseback and in carriages. The sides of the cover are painted with three-quarter length winged angels and additional figural scenes. The vignettes on the front and back reference the famous tarji`-band of Hatif of Isfahan, and cartouches carry minutely written inscriptions from that poem. The ends illustrate episodes from the story of Shaykh San`an and the Christian Maiden, from Farid al-Din `Attar’s Manṭiq al-ṭayr. The base features additional inscriptions and a gold arabesque painted on a black background. On the inside of the mouth of the cover can be seen the makers mark of Muhammad Javad (fl. 1857-after 1870).
The sliding compartment is also decorated. Two recessed panels on the front and back of the compartment bear additional scenes of Shaykh San`an and the Christian Maiden.

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), pp. 40-41, fig. 5; pp. 74-75, ill.; p. 133, cat. 103

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/17/2017 - 01/07/2018

Verification Level

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