Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Dish

1817-1818 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This dish was a gift from Fath Ali Shah to the British East India Company and was made by Muhammad Ja'far in 1233 AH/1817-1818 AD. The Shah had chosen the auspicious astrological symbol of the Sun in Leo, seen in the centre of the dish, as the official emblem of Iran. It matched the official emblems of the Western powers with whom he tried to establish equal standing.

Fath Ali Shah was the second ruler of the Qajar dynasty, which reunited the country in the 1790s. He commissioned art on a grand scale during his reign from 1797 to 1834. Iran had been isolated for a long period. As a result, the works he commissioned mix richness with a certain naïveté.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamelled gold
Brief Description
Gold dish enamelled with flowers and the lion-and-sun motif, signed by Muhammad Jafar, Iran (Tehran), dated AH 1233 / AD 1817-18.
Physical Description
Circular plate with polychrome enamel flowers and birds around the rim. The centre of the plate is decorated with bunches of flowers between arches of tracery surrounded by a border medallions of flowers on a green ground. The central boss shows the sun (represented with the face of a woman) rising behind a crouching lion.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 32.1cm
  • Weight: 79oz
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • A Token of Favour from HIS MAJESTY FATAH ALI SHAH King of Persia to the East India Company presented to the COURT OF DIRECTORS ASSEMBLED Campbell Marjoribanks Esq, Chairman and George Abercrombie Robinson Esq. Deputy Chairman by His Majesty's Ambassador His Excellency MIRZA ABUL HASAN KHAN on Friday 18th of June 1819 (Dedication)
  • raqam-i Muhammad Ja'far 1233 (artist's signature in central medallion)
  • Shahanshah-i mamalik-i basiteh-i / Iran bih kumpani-yi mashriq / 'inayat-i a'lahazrat / qadr-i qudrat / Jamshid-hashamat / Sulayman-rutbat (cartouches around central medallion, anti-clockwise from upper left)
  • Muhammad Jaffar fecit A.H. 1233 A.D. 1817 Wt 6lb 2dwt Troy (engraved on the underside of the dish)
Gallery Label
Jameel Gallery Enamelled Gold Dish Iran, probably Tehran Dated 1817-18 This dish was a gift from Fath Ali Shah to the British East India Company. The Shah had chosen the auspicious astrological symbol of the Sun in Leo, seen in the centre of the dish, as the official emblem of Iran. It matched the official emblems of the Western powers with whom he tried to establish equal standing. Gold and painted enamel. Signed by Muhammad Ja'far Museum no. M.97-1949(Jameel Gallery)
Object history
Previously part of the collection of the Indian Museum (number IS09406).



B.W. Robinson wrote of how he found the dish: '... in the course of unpacking and sorting all the Victoria and Albert Museum objects that had spent the war years in the cool and secure profundity of the Bradford-on-Avon quarries, I came across a rather large and heavy circular parcel wrapped in faded brown paper and tied with a dusty string. I unwrapped it and, to my great astonishment and delight, found that I had uncovered the enameled gold dish presented by the Fath 'Ali Shah to the East India Company -- over six pounds of solid gold, with beautiful painted enamel embellishments signed by Muhammad Ja'far and dated to 1818. When "John Company" was abolished after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the dish had been transferred, along with the rest of the Company treasures to the Indian Section of what was then the South Kensington Museum, and not being Indian, it was left to hibernate there for nearly a century in its original wrappings.'

B.W. Robinson, "Qajar Paintings. A Personal Reminiscence", in Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925, ed. Layla S. Diba, with Maryam Ekhtiar, Brooklyn, 1998, p.12.
Production
Signed by the artist and dated AH 1233
Summary
This dish was a gift from Fath Ali Shah to the British East India Company and was made by Muhammad Ja'far in 1233 AH/1817-1818 AD. The Shah had chosen the auspicious astrological symbol of the Sun in Leo, seen in the centre of the dish, as the official emblem of Iran. It matched the official emblems of the Western powers with whom he tried to establish equal standing.



Fath Ali Shah was the second ruler of the Qajar dynasty, which reunited the country in the 1790s. He commissioned art on a grand scale during his reign from 1797 to 1834. Iran had been isolated for a long period. As a result, the works he commissioned mix richness with a certain naïveté.
Bibliographic References
  • Robinson, B.W. 'Qajar Painted Enamels,' in R. Pinder-Wilson (ed.), Paintings from Islamic Lands, Oxford, 1969, pp. 187-205 (figs. 130, 131). Komaroff, Linda, ed. Gifts of the Sultans. The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2011, 'Diplomacy and Gift Giving at the Court of Fath 'Ali Shah' by Francesca Leoni, pp. 202-3 and cat. 183, p. 277
  • Diba, Layla S. (Ed.) Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch, 1785-1925 London, 1998
  • Avery, P, Hambly, G, Melville, C. (eds). The Cambridge History of Iran, 7 From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic, Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp 881 (ref. Robinson, B.W.)
  • Robinson, B.W. 'The Royal Gifts of Fath 'Ali Shah' in Apollo Magazine, 1950. pp.66
  • Wright, Sir Denis . 'Sir John Malcolm and the Order of the Lion and Sun' in Journal of Persian Studies, Iran, Vol. 19 (1979), pp. 135-141
  • Zand & Qajar Painting,Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 7., Avery, P, Hambly G, Melville C.
  • Paintings from Islamic Lands, Oriental Studies IV, Pinder Wilson R, (Ed)
  • Qajar Painted Enamels, Robinson, B.W.
Other Number
09406(IS) - India Museum Catalogue (IS) Number
Collection
Accession Number
M.97-1949

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record createdFebruary 5, 2003
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