AUD $980.00

Persian, Papier mache Penbox.

Another finely painted “Qajar” dynasty lacquered piece, a Penbox, for storing Calligraphy or Miniature painting implements.

This long box is subtly designed for ease of use. The sides taper slightly down to the base, allowing better grip when lifting.
The top is convex, domed lengthwise and the ends are organically slightly curved, too.

The exterior surfaces are richly covered in highly detailed, convoluted arabesques of tendrils and interwoven foliage patterns, as seen on so many Persian rugs.

This Qajar “lacquer” is achieved by the fine application of opaque watercolours (Gouaches), over a layer of fine Gold Leaf. This in turn was laid onto a Red Bole over Gesso, finally protected with a glossy layer of transparent or slightly golden varnish. (Note, most varnishes discolour or darken with time, also fine crazing forms, as the varnish dries, shrinking with age.)

On this box a section of lacquer has lifted revealing the goldleaf below, and if you look very closely, the bright Turquoise (lacquered over it appears as dark green, see close up details, last image) and rich Ultramarine beneath, (this latter appearing almost black, when lacquered) these original colours would’ve been almost garish compared to the toned down versions we’re used to!
What we admire as mellowed age, would have been much brighter originally, (like the “Sistine Chapel” where restoration has revealed quite brilliant pigments.)

As the colour itself is not water proof, I would avoid exposure to damp. If it didn’t affect the colour it would certainly damage the papier mache, which soaks up moisture and unfortunately expands, damaging and lifting the paintwork. The bottom and interior show some damage due to damp.

I suspect that this discolouring has produced the “golden lacquer” that is so characteristic of Qajar Lacquerworks.
Looking closely at the fine crazing reveals the actual watercolour and Gesso base.
And that the fine gold highlighting, is really Leaf that has been left unpainted, still reflecting light through the varnish.

Initially looking at the lid and body, I thought them missed matched.
However the fact that they fitted exactly made substitution most unlikely.
Then stepping back I realised that the lid had a complementary border framing a central panel that then repeated the box design, brilliantly “solving” the lid and box juncture. Looking then at the others we have I’ve realised that this design solution is not uncommon, but they aren’t all the same.

The interior is an all over very deep Ultramarine blue with fine gold linework borders (these would, it appears, have been brilliant Ultramarine when first varnished and gilded!)

In fair condition, considering it’s age and the overall fine crazing of the varnish, a number of knocks on the rims have left bits missing, and some small areas where the revealed goldleaf layers underneath the applied paint and varnish are visible.

There are also many cracks some larger, but mostly minor and not very obvious, lost in the complicated background of patterning.

It’s still holding together well, but definitely beginning to show it’s age, which is to be expected.

Age: 19 th Century.

Size: L 273 mm X W 82 mm x H 66 mm.

Weight: 321 grams.