Pen Box with Scenes from Life of Bahram Gur and the Madonna and Child, 1866-1867
Painted lacquer on papier mache
The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore
This unusual work is from the collection of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland, a state in which I lived for a total of about sixteen months in 1992 and 1996. Interesting place, Maryland. You've got a lot of topographical variety -- mountains in the west, rolling Piedmont hills in the middle, and marshy lowlands in the east. Its economy is similarly varied: agriculture, transportation (the Port of Baltimore is the tenth busiest in the U.S.), mining, defense/aerospace, mining, manufacturing, fishing. It's bizarrely shaped; it narrows to a point less than a mile wide in the western part, and narrows again at the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay. (I once remarked to my brother than if the State of Maryland was a Congressional district, it would be ruled an unconstitutional gerrymander.) The Baltimore-Washington area is one of the most densely populated areas of the country, but the surrounding regions are quite sparsely populated It's the wealthiest state in the union, with a median household income of $65,144. And all this diversity is packed into the eighth smallest state in the U.S. See? Interesting.
Anyway, back to this work of art. The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ are both venerated figures in Islam, so it's not too surprising in theory to find a work of Islamic art depicting the Madonna and Child. And yet this is the only such piece I've run across. The other scenes on this pen box depict some of the "amorous adventures of the Sassanian King Bahram Gur." Strange combination. I recommend you click through the photo to take a look at the full size image.
2003: Frost, "Christmas Trees"
2004: Her First Christmas Tree. And Lightning in Her Hands
2005: The Season's Best Wishes
2006: Davis, "A Christmas Poem