Pen Box and Utensils

17th century (made)
Pen Box and Utensils thumbnail 1
Pen Box and Utensils thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South Asia, Room 41
Place Of Origin

This pen box containing small utensils necessary for the preparation of pens and ink was almost certainly made in the ateliers of the Mughal court in the second half of the 17th century. Nephrite jade imported from Khotan was a rare material in the first half of the century, but following the re-opening of trade routes through Kashmir, it became increasingly available to the royal artisans. Such an opulent piece, set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds of good quality and shaped with considerable skill, was probably made as an emblem of office. It would perhaps have been given to a newly appointed Vizir, or Chief Minister.
The pen box was acquired in the mid-19th century by the great collector of Mughal hardstones, Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie, and sold by him to the Indian Museum, London, in 1868. In 1879, his collection was transferred with other parts of the Museum's collection to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
White nephrite jade, rubies, emeralds and diamonds set in gold.
Brief Description
White nephrite jade set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds in gold; Mughal court, c. 1650-1700.
Physical Description
Rectangular box of white nephrite jade set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds in gold. The lower section has a central dividing rib and two small inkpots with hinged covers, one of which is missing. It contains a small knife, pen holder and spoon, all of jewelled jade. The knife has a steel blade overlaid in gold. The cover has a design of flowers, leaves and palmettes of rubies, diamonds and emeralds in gold; the large central blossom is set with rubies.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2cm
  • Width: 20.9cm
  • Depth: 8.8cm
Style
Gallery Label
‘PEN BOX AND UTENSILS White nephrite jade set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds in gold Mughal c. 1700 02549 (IS)(27/9/2013)
Object history
From the collection of Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie and bought from him by the Indian Museum, Leadenhall Street, London in 1868. Transferred with other parts of the Indian Museum collection to the South Kensington Museum in 1879.
Production
Made in the imperial ateliers, probably between c. 1650 and 1700.
Subject depicted
Summary
This pen box containing small utensils necessary for the preparation of pens and ink was almost certainly made in the ateliers of the Mughal court in the second half of the 17th century. Nephrite jade imported from Khotan was a rare material in the first half of the century, but following the re-opening of trade routes through Kashmir, it became increasingly available to the royal artisans. Such an opulent piece, set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds of good quality and shaped with considerable skill, was probably made as an emblem of office. It would perhaps have been given to a newly appointed Vizir, or Chief Minister.

The pen box was acquired in the mid-19th century by the great collector of Mughal hardstones, Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie, and sold by him to the Indian Museum, London, in 1868. In 1879, his collection was transferred with other parts of the Museum's collection to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Bibliographic References
  • Rogers, Emma: Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, "The Parasol Foundation Trust Programme: digitising and cataloguing the V&A's South Asian collection.", p.110, pl. 35.
  • The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982 Number: ISBN 0 906969 26 3p. 122, cat. no. 370, Rosemary Crill
  • Jackson, Anna and Ji Wei (eds.) with Rosemary Crill, Ainsley M. Cameron and Nicholas Barnard, compiled by the Palace Museum, translated by Yuan Hong, Qi Yue and Liu Ran. The Splendour of India' Royal Courts : Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Beijing: the Forbidden City Publishing House, 2013. Text in English and Chinese. ISBN 9787513403917.
  • Jackson, Anna and Ji Wei (eds.) with Rosemary Crill, Ainsley M. Cameron and Nicholas Barnard, compiled by the Palace Museum, translated by Yuan Hong, Qi Yue and Liu Ran. The Splendour of India' Royal Courts : Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Beijing: the Forbidden City Publishing House, 2013. Text in English and Chinese. ISBN 9787513403917.pps. 42 and 43
  • The art of India and Pakistan, a commemorative catalogue of the exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1947-8. Edited by Sir Leigh Ashton. London: Faber and Faber, [1950]p. 229, cat. no. 1181
  • Swallow, D., Stronge, S., Crill, R., Koezuka, T., editor and translator, "The Art of the Indian Courts. Miniature Painting and Decorative Arts", Victoria & Albert Museum and NHK Kinki Media Plan, 1993.p. 48, cat. no. 22
  • Baker, Malcolm, et. al., A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Collection
Accession Number
02549(IS)

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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