Goldsmith’s Scales & Weights in a Painted, Lacquered Box
length of box: 15.5cm, width: 9.5cm, height: 2.9cm
This rare boxed set of scales and weights was made for use by a goldsmith in Persia around the middle of the nineteenth century. The box is wooden and painted inside and out with typically Persian scenes of birds and flowers of the period. The top of the hinged cover also has a border painted with nasta’liq script (with some early retouching.)
The set includes six graduated hexagonal brass weights, each decorated to the top with flower motifs; a pair of steel tweezers (with half of one tong missing); and a pair of scales suspended from a red and yellow silk cord. The bars of the scales are of steel and the concave pans are of brass, the interiors of which are engraved with flower motifs.
The maker’s mark (in Persian Arabic) is engraved into a brass hinged lid that covers a small compartment inside the box.
The unit of measurement represented by the weights was the
mithqal of 4.46 grams, and each weight represented either a multiple or a some part of a mithqal.
Tool boxes decorated with lacquer painting were made in Persia from at least the eighteenth century (Savage-Smith, 1997, p. 402). Boxes such as these were made for merchants who traded in jewellery or small quantities of gold.
A related boxed set of weights and scales – possibly by the same maker whose name is given as Mirza Baba – is in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art and illustrated in Savage-Smith, 1997, p. 404.
Savage-Smith, E., The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art: Science, Tools & Magic, Part Two: Mundane Worlds, The Nour Foundation, 1997.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2021
A related example displayed in the British Museum.