AUD $1,200.00
  • Sold Out! - Sorry.

Persian, Papier mache Penbox.

Sorry, this box is no longer available. However, we may still have another different one..

Another finely painted, lacquered piece, an oblong Penbox, (qalamdan) with round ends and a gently domed top.

These penboxes were a mainstay used for storing and transporting Calligraphic or Miniature painting implements (brushes, reed pens, penknives and whetstones, to name a few. And some of which we may still have available on this site, just search for "calligraphy" to find them.)
This one from Persia, is from the "Qajar" Dynasty and is probably mid to late 19th Century, characteristically it has a surface filled with flowers painted over glowing Gold Leaf.

This long papier mache box is quite elegantly proportioned, with a curvy seam cut into it which opens and actually allows it to slide open lengthwise. (I think of child hood pencil cases.) The top is convex, domed lengthwise and the ends are organically rounded, too.

The exterior surfaces are richly covered in an old amber varnish over a gold leaf ground which in turn is almost covered in hand painted ivory coloured flowers and foliage plant portraits. (these are similar to Mughal full plant portraits rather than sprigs and stems.) Some are recognizably roses, others maybe daisies, carnations and possibly larkspurs.
These are all picked out in very fine red ink linework painted onto ivory areas (ie petals) applied to the gold surface.

However, that's what it is now .........a mellow amber and ivory piece with a dark green base and a Venetian red interior picked out in black and yellow foliage arabesques........and  is not what it would originally have been. A chip in the varnish here and there reveals the colour scheme it once was.......on the dark green there is a turquoise spot where the darkened old varnish is missing and on one side a petal is it was once White flowers picked out in fine Crimson linework on a goldleaf background and the base was Turquoise with fine scattered flowers repeating small references to the overall colour scheme.

Like on old paintings the protective varnish darkens over time creating what we see as old. Usually with time the varnish on old painting develops a crazing of fine cracks, however this surface has very few actual cracks and no superficial varnish crazing.

The overall effect is now one of "glowing amber and ivory over a warm gold field."

As the colours themselves are probably not water proof, I would avoid exposure to damp. A small section of the base at one end has faded and I think this was due to moisture penetrating the glaze and fading the pigments. Bare this in mind as Damp is dangerous as
even if it didn’t affect the colour it could easily damage the papier mache, which soaks up moisture and unfortunately expands, damaging and lifting the paintwork.


In good condition, except for some scuffs and scrapes,  which luckily reveal the layers underneath, giving us a glimpse of what it was when new.

If you find these scratches truly offensive, see a restorer who can very carefully tone them down with a gentle wipe with a damp cotton bud to transfer some grime from an unimportant area onto the scraped but pale areas. Avoid solvents or even warm water as it might bleed sideways under the varnish. This moisture trapped under the varnish can also produce clouding of the varnish, too.

Age: Mid/Late 19 th Century.

Size: L 300 mm (closed, open is at least 495 mm X W 63 mm x H 60 mm.

Weight: 351 grams.