A lion attacking a deer, stencilled scene of découpage paper shapes


British Museum

British Museum

This intricately-worked scene depicts a lion pouncing on a deer, in a landscape of flowering trees and a pond. Two birds perch in the trees, and two ducks swim in the pool, in peaceful contrast to the violent events beside them. Every detail of the composition has been cut out from papers of different colours, and some elements, such as the flowers and twigs in the trees, are amazingly small.

Sixteenth and seventeenth-century Ottoman Turkey saw an enthusiastic fashion for stencil-cut paper openwork, of standard garden scenes of trees and animals, stylized compositions of flowers and vases, or examples of fine calligraphy, either embossed or in relief. Pages of this new artistic technique were inserted into albums, and also used as decoration for the margins of pages.

The device derives from paper openwork designs on luxury bookbindings, produced from the fifteenth-century Timurid dynasty of Iran onwards. Paper openwork replaced filigree leather as it was cheaper and easier to use. Using very small cutting-blades, the craftsmen cut elaborate patterns which were then gilded and pasted onto the book cover to create an effect of filigree.

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  • Title: A lion attacking a deer, stencilled scene of découpage paper shapes
  • Date Created: 1501/1550
  • Physical Dimensions: Width: 14.10cm (sheet); Height: 21.10cm (sheet); Width: 12.10cm (image); Height: 19.10cm (image)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cut; painted
  • Subject: mammal; bird; tree/bush
  • Registration number: 1953,0214,0.1
  • Production place: Made in Turkey
  • Period/culture: Ottoman dynasty
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Marsh, Edward Howard. Bequeathed through Art Fund


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