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Dish

Dish

  • Place of origin:

    Tehran (made)

  • Date:

    1817-1818 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Muhammad Ja'far (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled gold

  • Museum number:

    M.97-1949

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case WW5

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.

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.

Place of Origin

Tehran (made)

Date

1817-1818 (made)

Artist/maker

Muhammad Ja'far (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled gold

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
Made by 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
The Shahanshah (King of Kings) of the wide lands of Iran, to the Company of the East, his most exalted Majesty, powerful as Fate, magnificent as Jamshid, elevated as Solomon
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

Dimensions

Diameter: 32.1 cm, Weight: 79 oz

Object history note

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.

Descriptive line

Gold dish enamelled with flowers and the lion-and-sun motif, signed by Muhammad Jafar, Iran (Tehran), dated AH 1233 / AD 1817-18.

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

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.), with Maryam Ekhtiar. Royal Persian Paintings: The Qajar Epoch 1785-1925, Brooklyn, 1998, cat. no. 53.
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.

Labels and date

Enamelled Gold Dish
Iran, probably Tehran
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 with enamel painting. Signed by Muhammad Ja'far

Museum no. M.97-1949 [Jameel Gallery]

Production Note

Signed by the artist and dated AH 1233

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Enamelling

Categories

Metalwork

Collection

Middle East Section

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