VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Pencil box “kalamdan”
2704-43
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The refinement of the traditional pencil box shape, the complexity of the “mugava” technique, the festive brightness of the “kundai” painting, as well as the distinctiveness of the subject, allow viewing this pencil case as a manifestation of the Iranian artistic taste of the Qajar era.

History of the Object
The “mugava” technique and the “kundai” lacquer painting emerged in Iran in the 15th century, during the reign of Tamerlane. Such items were made of paper mass mixed with different glues, or of glued sheets of paper. The surface was covered with refined miniatures made in glue paints, gouache, tempera or watercolors. Painting was made with thin brushes over a primer made of golden or bronze powder or gold or bronze foil applied with apricot or cherry glue. Painting was then fixed with multiple layers of transparent gold-yellow lacquer, whose main component was the sandarac tree resin. Boxes for reed pens, inkpots and sharpening knifes (“kalamadan”) traditionally were one of the most popular lacquer objects in Iran. Pencil boxes were a mandatory attribute for officials, judges, mullahs, poets, madrasah pupils, and scribes. The finest examples of “kalamadan” were valued as true pieces of art. Among the finest lacquer objects of the MAE RAS collection is a “kalamadan” from the collection of orientalist Valentin Zhukovsky (1858-1918). The upper panel and the side surfaces of the box cover are painted with luxuriant scenes from the royal life. The sides are covered with lion hunt scenes.

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Type
Calligraphy 
Materials
papier-mache, water color, tempera, sandarac 
Measurements
Width 10 cm Height 7 cm Length 40 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Iran 
Geography
Iran 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century 
Function
Container for pencils; decorative. 
Acquisition
Bought from Valentin Zhukovsky 
Copyright
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) RAS 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Russian Federation 
Museum
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) Russian Academy of Sciences 
Credit line
 

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