Two Persian marbled penboxes up for sale at Christies TOMORROW
- Hello everyone,
Does anyone have a few thousand dollars to spare?
I have just found out that two marbled and lacquered boxes will be sold TOMORROW at
auction at Christies South Kensington location. The sale is for Indian and Islamic Works of
art, sale number 5560, item numbers 473 and 474. The images are terrible, but I can
assure you that it is what it says.
Both examples are signed and dated by the artists. Other examples of these masters work
have been published. The citations to both the publications are provied. The catalog
"Lacquer of the Islamic lands" from the Nasser Khalili collection has FABULOUS images of
delicately marbled penboxes.
The subject of marbling in Iran has been sorely neglected in most marbling literature,
though it is often in English language books that marbling was invented in Persia, though
that can't be said for certain. The oldest Islamic marbling dates to Cenrtal Asia, but then
seems to die out by the 17th century, with the downfall of the Shaybanid Uzbek dynasty.
It is also interesting to note that the term used to day in Iran is abr-o-bad, which means
"Cloud and wind' in Persian. Abu Talib is credited with the invention of this new style,
though I personally wonder if this can really be confirmed, as there is a text from India
that seems to desribe a similar procedure.
The term "abr-o bad" or "abru bad" is derived from a poem by the famous Shirazi poet
Sadi, well before any marbling we know of from the region. So it was likely just a poetic
reference, nothing more. Nevertheless, it offers a compelling new possible angle on the
possible origin of the word "ebru' used in Turkey today. Is it a shortened form of "abru-
bad", pronounced in a Turkish accent as a "ebru"?
Older texts in Persian and Turkish all use the word abri, or ebri, not ebru, and they are
spelled differently in arabic script, as ebri ends with the letter ya (which the late Dr.
Annemarie Shimmel translated as "clouded" or "cloudy", used to describe the paper- so
"clouded paper"). yet the words abru and ebru end with the letter vav, and literally would
mean "cloud and..." dropping the word "bad" , meaning "air" or "wind". The earliest use of
the term of "ebru" in refernce to marbling in Ottoman Turkish is in the Ottoman dictionary
by Redhouse, from the turn of the 19th-20th century. If anyone knows another earlier
source, please tell me where it has been published, as I have been looking for a long
So is it possible that there is a connection between marbling in Iran in the 19th century
and the tradition of the Uzbeler tekke in Istanbul? Many have claimed that the tradition
was derived from Naqshibandi Sufis in Bukhara, but this has never been confirmed, and
very little evidence of marbling there at such a late date has yet to be found (much any
less Naqshibandi sufi making such papers, despite it being a very popular notion).
Who knows? the evidence may be there, lurking, waiting to be found on a dusty library
shelf. People simply have to take a little bit of time to look for it. Ironically, I posted a link
a few months ago to a mirror-case in the National Museum of Iran, but the web site has
now unfortunately vanished. So catch the sights while you can!
So many points to ponder over! I wonder what we'll find next month...