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Tibetan Pierced Iron Pen Case

Derge, Tibet
15th century or earlier

length: 38cm, weight: 888g



UK art market

This heavy iron pen case comprises a long body and a lid, all with rounded contours. The fronts of both parts are pierced and decorated with three thin, sinewy dragons that are amid copious, dense Himalayan scrolling foliage that is heavily pierced.

The sides are decorated with a fine, pierced key-fret border.

The reverse is engraved with four ‘long-life’ symbols against a fish (or dragon) scale ground.

Two matched lugs or eyelets on the cover and body would have allowed the case to be kept closed.

Originally, it was likely that this pen case was gilded.

Reynolds (1999, p. 108) illustrates a similar example in the Newark Museum, pierced and of similar form, attributed to Derge, 15th century or earlier.

The example here has a dark patina from considerable age and is free from loss or damage.


Reynolds, V. et al, From the Sacred Realm: Treasures of Tibetan Art from the Newark Museum, Prestel, 1999.

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