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Binding with princely scenes

Iran, Shiraz (?), second half of the 16th century
Papier maché, painted decoration
H. 32 cm; W. 19.9 cm
Musée du Louvre, Musée des Arts décoratifs deposit, G. Migeon bequest
Ucad 27659 a-b

Luxury bindings appear to have had a varied life, even independently from the manuscripts which supported them. Many were detached from their manuscripts and re-used on manuscripts of an earlier date, while some may have been prepared individually and matched with a manuscript during the last stages of production. The earliest extant examples of lacquer-painted bindings can be dated to the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Most recent research conducted on a large number of Safavid lacquered book bindings indicates that the peak period for these luxury items was the sixteenth century and that the art of lacquered bindings declined in quality in the seventeenth century. Although lacquer work is often associated with court patronage, they were also produced in provincial centers, such as Shiraz, and resembled their courtly counterparts so closely that they were also often attributed to the Safavid court workshops.
The outer covers depict generic princely scenes; a princely figure seated on a throne under an awning to the right of the composition is surrounded by seated and standing courtiers, musicians, a page tending a horse and attendants serving food. To the left, a hunting scene shows a princely figure striking a lion, surrounded by his attendants and falconers, both mounted and on foot, as well as others on horseback joining the hunt. Both compositions are painted on a black background with borders of black Chinese cloud-bands on a gold ground.
Dating and attribution of bindings is considerably more difficult than those of complete manuscripts since they were often reused and do not contain dates. Assigning this binding to a particular center (Safavid court or Shiraz) is also extremely difficult. Stylistic analysis of its figurative design suggests a date in the second half of the sixteenth century.

Binding with princely scenes
Binding with princely scenes
Ucad 27659
© RMN / Berizzi