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Lacquer chest with weights and scales, for weighing jewellery


Length: 64.500 cm
Depth: 37.000 cm
Height: 16.000 cm

Gift of Frank Cooke

ME OA 1927.5-25.1

Middle East

    Lacquer chest with weights and scales, for weighing jewellery

    Iran, around AD 1840

    King Solomon enthroned

    This is an elaborate toolkit for weighing jewellery. It includes scissors, tweezers, measuring spoons, three weighing scales of different sizes, and a set of weights. The various steel objects are damascened in gold, and fit into custom-made sections inside the box. Inside the lid is a mirror.

    The lid of the chest shows King Solomon enthroned in an assembled court of humans, jinns, peris, demons, birds and animals. Solomon features in both the Qur'an and the Bible as the wise king who tested Belqis, the queen of Sheba. According to Islamic legend, King Solomon commanded all spirits and was able to speak to animals. His personal messenger was the hoopoe bird, shown here on a ledge behind the throne. The sides of the chest are painted with hunting scenes of princes on horseback, against a rather Europeanized scene of wooded hills and occasional isolated buildings. The influence of European art on Islamic painting began in the seventeenth century, with the increasing commercial and diplomatic contact between East and West.

    The lacquer decoration of the box is achieved by watercolour paint covered with a glossy layer of transparent or slightly golden varnish. This decorative medium had been used on bookbindings in Iran since the late fifteenth century, and it became extremely popular during the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925). Lacquer paintings decorated hard surfaces, such as book-covers and boxes, which had previously been ornamented by stamping and tooling, or carving and painting.

    R. Ward, Islamic metalwork (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

    N.D. Khalili, B.W. Robinson and T. Stanley, Lacquer of the Islamic lands, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, vol. 22 part 2 (London, Nour Foundation, 1997)

    L. Diba (ed.), Royal Persian paintings: the Q (Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, London, 1998)


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