top Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Muhammad `Ali, Persian
Pen Box with Erotic Scenes in Medallions on Floral Ground
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
c. 1830-1850
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Qajar period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Opaque watercolor, gold-colored pigments, and lacquer over brass layers on pasteboard
5.1 × 5 × 28.3 cm (2 × 1 15/16 × 11 1/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: رقم زد کمینه محمد علی في ۱۱۰۶ [ambiguous date]

    Painted by the lowly Muhammad `Ali in 1708-09
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
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Cover and lid with rounded ends. The top is decorated in horizontal format, with five small lobed medallions containing erotic imagery superimposed on floating blossoms, the whole set against a gold background. The sides are nearly identical, each bearing a symmetrical pattern of clumps of red and purple flowers springing from the ground line, against a light brown background. The inner lid, also in horizontal format, features a leafy plant, rooted at the center with branches extending to the ends of the lid. On the base, floral and foliate motifs are painted on a red background.
The signature and date (painted on the inner lid), places the work in the mid-eighteenth century, but the figural imagery appears to be Qajar, to judge from the few elements of clothing.
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. 123, cat. 71

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