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Case cover, for mirror

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made in Shiraz, Persia

Case cover, for mirror
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This mirror case cover was made in Shiraz in Persia by the artist Ashraf. It dates from 1153 A.H. (1740 AD). It is made of painted and lacquered papier-mache.

The octagonal case cover is decorated with the central image of a bird surrounded by roses. This, contained within a polylobed medallion with small related motifs above and below, is set against a red ground densely filled with golden scroll work. The theme of 'Gul ve Bulbul' (The Rose and the Nightingale) is the most popular theme for lacquered papier-mache objects executed in 18th- and 19th-century Iran and has poetic as well as religious-mystical associations. Other popular subjects on Iranian lacquerwork included life at court, the legendary history of Iran and religious themes. The best lacquerwork items were executed in Isfahan and Tehran for the court and the upper classes of society.

The craft of painted papier-mache is a laborious one: first layers of paper soaked in water are placed over a wooden model. When the required thickness has been achieved, the object is left to dry and then rubbed down for a smooth surface. Then a coat of fine gypsum and natural collagen dissolved in water is applied to provide a base for painting. Pigments derived from vegetable pigments and metal oxides are painted on with a brush made up of one to three young kittens' hairs. When the desired decoration was completed, it was sealed with several layers of lacquer derived from the resin of desert shrubs dissolved in alcohol or paraffin.

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