Pen box

Brass pen box with surface dark gray patina. Decoration inlaid silver, includes inscriptions in ornamented naskh script, and signature and date in kufic script.

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Artist: Shazi
Historical period(s)
Saljuq period, 13th century (1210-11)
Brass inlaid with copper, silver and black organic material
H x W x D: 5 x 31.4 x 6.4 cm (1 15/16 x 12 3/8 x 2 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Metalwork

Pen box

Iran, kufic script, naskh script, Saljuq period (1037 - 1300), writing

To 1936
Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962), New York. [1]

From 1936
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Hagop Kevorkian, New York. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Hagop Kevorkian 1872-1962


Brass pen box with surface dark gray patina. Decoration inlaid silver, includes inscriptions in ornamented naskh script, and signature and date in kufic script.


Top, side:
'amal Shadhi al-naqqash fi shuhur sanat sab' wa-sittmi 'a
"Made by Shadhi al-Naqqash in the year 607 [A.D. 1210]

Top (ornamented naskh):
al-sadr al-ajall al-kabir al -'alim al -'adil al-mu'ayyad al-muzaffar al-mansur Majd al-mulk Sharaf al-dawla wa' l-din Shihab al-Islam wa'l-Muslimin Ikhtiyar al-muluk wa'l-salatin Diya' al-milla Baha' al-umma Qudwat al-akabir wa'l-amathil 'Umdat al-ma'ali Sayyid al-wuzara' Malik al-nuwwab Dhu'l-sa'adat Dastur Iran Sadr wa-Nizam Khurasan al-Muzaffar ibn al-sadr al-shahid Majd al-mulk da'afa 'llahu qadrah

"Most magnificent and mighty grand vizier, the learned, the just, supported [by heaven], the victorious, the triumphant, Majdul-Mulk, Honor of the State and Religion, Comet of Islam and Muslims, Elect of Kings and Sultans, Light of the Nation, Splendor of the Community, Leader of the Great, Pillar of Dignity, Lord of Viziers, King of Viceroys, the felicitous, dastur (governor) of Iran, sadr (grand vizier) and nizam (ruler) of Khurasan, al-Muzaffar son of the martyred (late) sadr Majdul-Mulk- may God increase his might manifold."

al-'izz wa 'l-iqbal wa' l-dawla wa' l-salama wa' l-afiya wa' l-inaya wa' l-qana 'a wa' l-shifa 'a wa' l-nasr wa' l-nasira wa' l-ziyada wa' l-shakira wa' l-shukr wa' l-ni 'ma wa' l-riyada wa' l-raha wa' l-rahma wa'l-riyada wa'l- tamma wa' l-ta 'yid wa' l-diyana wa' l-dawam wa' l-kifaya wa' l-baqa da'im li-sahibih

"Glory, good fortune, power, good health, well-being, [divine] favor, contentment, intercession, victory, victoriousness, increase, thanks, gratitude, good things, leadership, comfort, mercy, asceticism, completeness, assistance [from heaven], religiosity, permanence, sufficiency, long life ever to the owner."

Here, and elsewhere in this inscription, the "extra' h is taken to be ornamental and not an integral part of the word.


The tendency to embellish works of art with inscriptions intensified after the twelfth century. On this finely inlaid penbox, the artist has provided the name and titles of the patron (Majd al-Mulk al-Muzaffar, died 1221), the date of the object, as well as his own appellation. In addition, he has presented the information in a variety of calligraphic styles, including a band around the base that terminates in playful human and animal heads.

Published References
  • Sheila Blair. Text and Image in Medieval Persian Art. Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art Edinburgh. .
  • Joanna Kirkpatrick. Transports of Delight: The Ricksha Art of Bangladesh. Bloomington, Indiana. .
  • Unknown Title. tome 3, fasc. 1 Paris. fig. 8.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1936. Washington, 1936-1937. appendix 3, pl. 1.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Ernst Kuhnel. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. 6 vols., London and New York, 1938 - 1939. cat. 11, vol. 3: p. 2521, fig. 841.
  • New Orient Society of America. Oriental Art in America: Recent Accessions in American Museums. Chicago. pl. 39.
  • Etienne Combe, Jean Sauvaget, Gaston Wiet. Repertoire chronologique d'epigraphie arabe. vol. 10, Cairo. cat. 3671.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Exhibition of 2500 Years of Persian Art. Exh. cat. Washington, 1971. cat. 58, p. 17.
  • D.S. Rice. The Seasons and the Labors of the Months in Islamic Art. vol. 1 Washington and Ann Arbor. p. 27, fig. 8.
  • Ernst Herzfeld. A Bronze Pen Case. vol. 3, no. 1 Ann Arbor, 1936. pp. 35-43, figs. 1-9.
  • Amy Briggs. Timurid Carpets: I. Geometric Carpets. vol. 7, no. 1 Ann Arbor. p. 35.
  • Umberto Scerrato. Metalli Islamici. Elite: le arti e gli stili in ogni tempo e paese Milan. p. 55.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Islamic Art in the Freer Gallery. vol. 3, no. 3, Autumn 1985. pp. 58-9, fig. 4.
  • Islamic Art and Patronage: Treasures from Kuwait. Exh. cat. New York. pp. 96-7, fig. 10.
  • Dr. Esin Atil, W. Thomas Chase, Paul Jett. Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington, 1985. cat. 14, pp. 102-110.
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 39, pp. 116-117.
  • The Arts of Persia. New Haven and London. p. 176, fig. 10.
  • Jose Pijoan. Arte Islamico. vol. 12, Summa artis, historia general del arte, 1st ed. Madrid. p. 179, fig. 241.
  • Marilyn Stokstad. Art: A Brief History., 2nd rev. ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. pp. 189, 202, fig. 8-16.
  • Eva Baer. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany. pp. 204, 211, fig. 178.
  • Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani. Les Bronzes du Khorassan: VII: Sazi de Herat, Ornementiste. vol. 8, no. 2 Paris. pp. 223-243.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, O. Graber. The Art and Architecture of Islam, 650-1250. The Pelican History of Art Hammondsworth, United Kingdom and New York. p. 341, fig. 361.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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