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  • Place of origin:

    Isfahan (made)

  • Date:

    1877 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Recorded in original registers as oil paintings on thick calico

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This colourful painting was traced from decorative tilework on a building in Isfahan, in 1877. A series of 39 designs was commissioned on behalf of the V&A (then the South Kensington Museum), in order to record this astonishing aspect of the sacred architecture of Safavid Iran, rendered in full scale and in colour. Robert Murdoch Smith and Ernst Hoeltzer, both of whom worked for the Anglo-Persian Telegraph Department, hired a team of Isfahani contractors to produce the paintings, which required "light scaffolding and other mechanical appliances" to reach difficult areas. The designs are painted onto sized paper fixed onto plain canvas, and show the tiled surfaces of walls, window-panels, arches, rib-vaults and even domes, copied from six different religious monuments. The decorative repertoire features a characteristic range of flowers, foliate scrollwork, ogival medallions and lobed cartouches, usually set against a blue background. Although the project was discussed as the documentation of historic Safavid architectural design from the early 17th century, one of the surveyed monuments was very much contemporary: the Masjid-e Sayyid which was built for a powerful landowning family of clerics, known as the Agayan-e Masjid-e Shah.

Physical description

Colour designs painted in tempera onto sized paper, mounted on sized cotton canvas

Place of Origin

Isfahan (made)


1877 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Recorded in original registers as oil paintings on thick calico

Marks and inscriptions

In pardeh mal-e pahluye mihrab-e madraseh-ye chahar bagh-e Iafahan ast, 1294.
This screen is from beside the mihrab, in the Madrasa of Chahar Bagh in Isfahan, dated 1877.


Length: 504 m, Width: 375 m

Object history note

"From the smaller eivan forming the Mehrab or place towards which the congregation look during prayer in the mosque under the great dome of the Madresseh-i-Mader-i-Shah. There are four similar eivan round base of dome." description provided in List of oil paintings on thick calico (natural size) of designs in ornamental mosaic tile work in the principal Safavean buildings at Ispahan (submitted by Robert Murdoch Smith to the Museum in December 1877).

Descriptive line

Middle East, Painting. Design, painted sized paper mounted on canvas, rectangular panel with green central lobed medallion against field of yellow and green foliate scrollwork on dark blue ground, traced from the tiled wall beside the mihrab in the 1704-1710 Safavid Madrasa-ye Madar-e Shah or Madrasa-ye Chahar Bagh), Isfahan, Iran, dated 1294H, 1877

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Moya Carey, Persian Art. Collecting the Arts of Iran for the V&A (London: V&A, 2018) pp.132-151.


Paper; Canvas


South & South East Asia Collection

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