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  • Place of origin:

    Tehran (made)

  • Date:

    1840-1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mirza Akbar (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Graphite and 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.

Place of Origin

Tehran (made)


1840-1870 (made)


Mirza Akbar (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Graphite and ink on paper


Length: 61.2 cm, Width: 18.6 cm

Descriptive line

Middle East, Paper. Architectural drawing, graphite and ink on paper, attributed to Mirza Akbar, Qajar Iran, 1840-1870

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

Persian Decoration. Working Drawings formerly used by MIRZA AKBER, Architect to the Court of Persia.
Sheet No. 4. - Figs. I, III, V, wall decoration. Figs.II, IV, VI, borders. [1877]


Architectural fittings; Architecture; Drawings


South & South East Asia Collection

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