Chiswick Auctions, Qajar Papier Mâché Panels

October Wedding Panel

These charming 19th-century Qajar papier mâché panels are divided in three horizontal bands, which depict different moments of a traditional Persian marriage/wedding ceremony (aqd/arusi)—from the males’ gathering to discuss the proposal and draft the contract to the moment the female counterpart is made aware of the verdict, and from the procession to the actual celebration.

Amusingly the narration is presented in a format similar to a comic strip. While at times it is difficult to grasp exactly what the artist wishes to convey, here are some descriptions and thoughts. Details of these enchanting narratives can be seen below.

‘SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration’ provides a comprehensive account, past and present, of the Persian marriage and wedding ceremonies (aqd/arusi), in words and images. For more information, please go to The Book page.

different moments of a Persian marriage/wedding ceremony

This is the first band from the Qajar panels depicting different moments of a Persian marriage/wedding ceremony (aqd/arusi). This image portrays the first stage of the ceremony, which unfolds in the men’s quarters, where the marriage contract is being negotiated. A participant is smoking a water pipe (qalian). Either drinks are being served, or those green objects represent decorated sugarloaves (kalleh qand).

partition between the male and the female quarters

This second band illustrates the women’s section, and the partition between the male and the female quarters. Perhaps the bride’s consent to the union is being sought. She appears to be sitting on a prayer mat in front of some of the ceremonial elements of a marriage sofreh (sofreh-ye aqd), including candelabra, possibly decorated sugarloaves (kalleh qand) and a mirror which seems to reflect her image. She is surrounded by her close female relations, and a female musician is in attendance.

celebration of female quarters
This third band seems to demonstrate the celebrations in the female quarters, with food being served. Perhaps the bride is seated behind the curtain on the left. A female musician is in attendance. Some whole pomegranates and, most likely, decorated sugarloaves are portrayed, and a water pipe is being brought in.
preparing for the male procession
In this fourth band, the more senior, close relations of the couple seem to be in discussion, and delivering the news from the male quarters. With their black robes (chador) on, they appear to be preparing for the arrival of the male procession. A round platter of decorated bowls of food is portrayed.
musicians and dancers
In this fifth band, the marriage contract and ceremony seem to have been concluded, and the male procession, in the company of musicians and dancers, appears to be approaching the women’s quarters. The participating women are fully veiled.
bride and groom arrive on a white horse
This last band depicts the conclusion of the ceremony. The groom, escorted by his close male relations and aides, arrives on a white horse. There is music, dancing and lit candelabra. The veiled bride, mounted on another white horse, is escorted by her female close relations and aides, some holding lit candelabra.