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  • Place of origin:

    Tehran (made)
    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1846 (dating)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mirza Akbar (Architect)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ink on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This architectural sketch belongs to a portfolio of 238 designs on paper, once owned by a working architect in Qajar Tehran, in nineteenth-century Iran. There are two complete paper scrolls, and 236 smaller designs, most of which were cut down from other scrolls. They are a rare survival. The drawings vary in style and content, showing a range of designs proposed for tilework, stucco and woodwork, as well as architectural groundplans and elevations. Some reflect Iranian traditions of long standing, while others show decorative fashions imported from Europe. They are probably the work of several different individuals.
The drawings were acquired for the Museum in 1875 by Caspar Purdon Clarke, an architect who later became Director of the V&A. In 1874-75, Purdon Clarke was in Tehran, renovating the British embassy buildings. During the project, this drawing series was presented to Purdon Clarke by the local master-builders he was working with. He reported later that this was not a sale but an exchange, in acknowledgement of his teaching some European building-techniques to his Tehran colleagues. The two master-builders, Ostad Khodadad and Ostad Akbar, explained that the portfolio had belonged to the late Mirza Akbar, a court architect active in Tehran earlier in the century.

Physical description

Cartouche on blue paper with one line inscription of Persian poetry, written in black ink.

Place of Origin

Tehran (made)
Iran (made)


1846 (dating)


Mirza Akbar (Architect)

Materials and Techniques

Ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

جایگاه معتمد دایم بفردوس برین 1263


Height: 21.1 cm, Width: 60.6 cm

Descriptive line

Middle East, Paper. Architectural tilework drawing, ink on blue paper, Persian calligraphy panel, attributed to Mirza Akbar, Qajar Iran, dated 1846

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

Caspar Purdon Clarke, "The Tracing Board in Modern Oriental and Medieval Operative Masonry" in Transactions of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati 2076/6 (1893) pp.99-110
Gülru Necipoglu, "Geometric Design in Timurid/Turkmen Architectural Practice: Thoughts on a Recently Discovered Scroll and its Late Gothic Parallels" in Timurid Art and Culture: Iran and Central Asia in the Fifteenth Century, eds. L. Golombek, M. Subtelny, Leiden, 1992, 48–67.
Jennifer Scarce, "The Arts of the Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries: Architecture, Ceramics, Metalwork, Textiles", in The Cambridge History of Iran , vol.7, eds. P. Avery, G. Hambly, C. Melville, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1991), pp.896-899
Caspar Purdon Clarke and T. Hayter Lewis, "Persian Architecture and Construction" in The Transactions (the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1881), Session 1880-1881, pp.161-174
R. Phené Spiers, "Stalactite (Honeycomb) Vaulting, I" in The R.I.B.A Journal, (26 April 1888), pp.256-260
R. Phené Spiers, "Stalactite (Honeycomb) Vaulting, II" in The R.I.B.A Journal,10 May1888, pp.282-284
Gülru Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll - Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture, Santa Monica: Getty (1995), ch.1
Abraham Thomas, "The Orient and Ornament at the South Kensington Museum", in Art and Design for All. The Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. Julius Bryant, London: V&A Publishing (2011), 91-102.

Labels and date

1 Template for inscription
Iran, probably Tehran

The text is a line of poetry in Persian. The two half-lines were written in separate cartouches (here reversed). They praise the late Fath Ali Shah (died 1834) and wish him a place 'in the highest heaven'.

The outline of the inscription was pricked with a needle. A powder, often charcoal, was passed through the holes, transferring the outline to the surface below.

Ink on paper
Persian Decoration. Working Drawings formerly used by MIRZA AKBER, Architect to the Court of Persia.
Sheet No. 48. - Two transfers, fine examples of Persian writing, dated A.D. 1827. [1877]


Paper; Black carbon ink




Architecture; Architectural fittings; Designs; Drawings


South & South East Asia Collection

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