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made in Isfahan, Iran

Postcard of Tray.
© National Museums Scotland


This papier-mache tray was made at Isfahan in Iran. The tray dates from the late 17th century and actually carries the date of 1109 A.H. (A.D. 1697-8).

The tray is oblong with lobed ends. It is painted in the centre with a scene from the Iranian romantic poem of 'Yusuf and Zulaikha' by the Persian poet Jami (1414-92). This story was already known from the Old Testament as 'Joseph and Potiphar's Wife' and from the Holy Quran. The scene on this tray depicts Zulaikha presenting Yusuf to the women of Memphis in Egypt. Joseph's beauty is so overwhelming that some of the ladies present are stunned or faint.

The craft of painted papier-mache was suitable for objects intended to enclose and contain books and personal possessions. The technique is closely related to that used in manuscript illustration with designs meticulously outlined and painted in opaque watercolours onto the carefully prepared, dried papier-mache body and then sealed with layers of transparent resinous varnish.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-229-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1894.417
Date: 1697 - 1698 AD
Material: Papier mâché
Dimensions: 11.38" l x 6.00" W
Subject: Lacquerwork
Who: Jami
Where: Middle East, Iran, Isfahan
Description: Lacquer tray, papier-mache painted with a scene from the romantic poem of 'Yusuf and Zulaikha' by Jami, the tray is oblong with lobed ends: Persia, Isfahan, Safavid period, A.H. 1109, 1697 - 1698
  • Raby, Julian (ed) Nasser D. Khalili collect. of Islamic art, Vol. XXII, Pt 2: Lacquer of the Islamic lands, Oxford and NY, 1997 
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