Lacquer chest with weights and scales, for weighing jewellery


British Museum

British Museum

This is an elaborate toolkit for weighing jewellery. It includes scissors, tweezers, measuring spoons, three weighing scales of different sizes, and a set of weights. The various steel objects are damascened in gold, and fit into custom-made sections inside the box. Inside the lid is a mirror. The lid of the chest shows King Solomon enthroned in an assembled court of humans, jinns, peris, demons, birds and animals. Solomon features in both the Qur'an and the Bible as the wise king who tested Belqis, the queen of Sheba. According to Islamic legend, King Solomon commanded all spirits and was able to speak to animals. His personal messenger was the hoopoe bird, shown here on a ledge behind the throne. The sides of the chest are painted with hunting scenes of princes on horseback, against a rather Europeanized scene of wooded hills and occasional isolated buildings. The influence of European art on Islamic painting began in the seventeenth century, with the increasing commercial and diplomatic contact between East and West. The lacquer decoration of the box is achieved by watercolour paint covered with a glossy layer of transparent or slightly golden varnish. This decorative medium had been used on bookbindings in Iran since the late fifteenth century, and it became extremely popular during the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925). Lacquer paintings decorated hard surfaces, such as book-covers and boxes, which had previously been ornamented by stamping and tooling, or carving and painting.

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  • Title: Lacquer chest with weights and scales, for weighing jewellery
  • Date Created: 1840/1840
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 64.50cm; Depth: 37.00cm; Height: 16.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; overlaid; lacquered
  • Registration number: 1927,0525.1
  • Production place: Made in Iran
  • Place: Found/Acquired Iran
  • Period/culture: Qajar dynasty
  • Material: wood; gold; steel
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: From Cook, Frank