pen box top Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Ja`far ibn Najaf `Ali
Pen Box with Shaykh San`an and the Christian Maiden
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
c. 1850-1875
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Isfahan
Qajar period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Opaque watercolor, gold-colored pigments, copper alloy particles, and lacquer over brass layer on pasteboard
3.7 × 3.8 × 23.1 cm (1 7/16 × 1 1/2 × 9 1/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription:

    جعفر ابن نجفعلی

    Ja`far bin Najaf `Ali


    سالها دل طلب جام جم از ما می کرد…

    “Years the heart was seeking Jamshid’s cup from us...” [fragment of a ghazal by Hafiz]

    دوست ...



    هرکسی را سر کاری و

    “Everyone is preoccupied with something…” [fragment of a ghazal by Sa`di]
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 and divided into three sections separated by elaborate gold scrollwork and arabesque designs. The central section illustrates a tale recounted in Farid al-Din `Attar’s Manṭiq al-ṭayr (Conference of the Birds), in which Shaykh San`an kneels before the Christian Maiden, who offers him wine. The sections to the left and right feature scenes of a teacher with his students.
The sides of the cover are similarly divided by gold scrollwork and arabesque designs that enclose illustrations from Persian literature. The scenes on the front and back reference the famous tarji’-band by Hatif of Isfahan. The vignettes on the ends represent Shirin visiting Farhad at Mount Bisutun, and Khusraw spying Shirin at her bath. The base of the cover and sides of the drawer are decorated with flowers and female portrait busts of women.
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. 28-29, fig. 2; pp. 39-41, fig. 1; p. 138, cat. 116

David Roxburgh, ed., An Album of Artists' Drawings from Qajar Iran, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2017), 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. 37-38, fig. 24; pp. 154-155, cat. 65

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