The DDFIA metalwork collection consists of copper alloy tinned vessels, cast steel ones (some engraved and gilded, i.e. damascened), and finer examples of enameled silver and/or gold. This varied collection includes ewers and basins for washing and storing water, decorative animals, helmets, maces, pierced lamps, jewelry, and ghalians.
A highlight is a pair of large basins (54.2.1)—one of the few pieces in the collection known to have been endowed as waqf. The exterior of each basin features three bands of inscriptions which, in addition to extolling major figures of Shi‘ism, reveal that they were donated as waqf to the mosque in the shrine of Sayyid Hamza in Tabriz in 1291/1874, along with four water-drinking bowls (Thackston 2012). Doris Duke (1912–93) acquired the basins in 1938 from an Iranian dealer who sold her three smaller urn-shaped vessels (54.3.1–3) at the same time. The exterior of these vessels include four registers of inscriptions, also Shi‘ite in nature, and the upper band bears the date of 1273/1856. Despite having been produced two decades earlier, it is possible that they may be three of the four “water-drinking bowls” referenced in the dedicatory inscription of the larger basins, and hence part of the same waqf.
The finest example of Qajar metalwork in the collection is a silver and gold ghalian (44.4a–b) with enameled figures set in ovals upon floral backgrounds. The nearly intact piece is signed by ‘Abul Qasim ibn Mirza Muhammad, a master enamel artist at the court of Fath ‘Ali Shah (r. 1797–1834) known to have created several other ghalians, including one with a portrait of Queen Victoria (Robinson 1969). It was not uncommon for fine examples of Qajar enamelwork to be closely linked with English monarchs, and global diplomacy in general, during the reign of Fath ‘Ali Shah. Indeed, Sir Gore Ouseley, who ordered the DDFIA’s pair of khatamkari doors (64.48.1–2), received a gift of an enameled gold dish dated 1228/1813 from Fath ‘Ali Shah. This dish was very similar to a slightly later example by the same artist (Muhammad Ja‘far), which Fath ‘Ali Shah presented to the East India Company in 1819 (Komaroff 2011; Robinson 1969).
One of a pair of Qajar Iranian basins (54.2.1–2) endowed as waqf to the mosque in the shrine of Sayyid Hamza in Tabriz in 1291/1874. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2011.)
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, “Qajar Iran: Metalwork,” Collection Highlights, Shangri La: A Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures, November 2012, www.shangrilahawaii.org.
Linda Komaroff, et al., eds. Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011).
B. W. Robinson, “Qajar Painted Enamels,” in Paintings from Islamic Lands, ed. Ralph H. Pinder-Wilson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969).
Wheeler Thackston, “Shangri La Highlights in Translation,” Shangri La Working Papers in Islamic Art, no. 1 (February 2012), 1–22.
Maryam Ekhtiar and Marika Sardar, “Nineteenth-Century Iran: Art and the Advent of Modernity,” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2011.
Maryam Ekhtiar and Marika Sardar, “Nineteenth-Century Iran: Continuity and Revivalism,” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–),The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2011.
Marika Sardar, “The Arts of Iran: 1600–1800,” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2011.
Layla S. Diba, “Enamel,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, December 15, 1998.
Jennifer Scarce, “Art in Iran x. Qajar 1. General,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, December 15, 1986.
“Search the Collections: Qajar,” Victoria and Albert Museum.
“Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran,” Harvard University.
Béla Kelényi and Iván Szántó, Artisans at the Crossroads: Persian Arts of the Qajar Period (1796–1925) (Budapest: Ferenc Hopp Museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts, 2010).
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