A lacquer technique using resin varnish to protect and enhance painted surfaces appeared in the Middle East as early as the 13th or 14th century. However, it was transformed into an exquisite and fashionable artistic medium in Iran during the Safavid (1501-1722/36) and Qajar 1779/96-1925) periods. Originally used for book covers, in the 17th century it came to adorn a variety of objects for daily use such as penboxes and picture frames. Elegant lacquer doors like these are thought to have become an integral feature of Persian palaces and upper class houses by the mid-16th century.
This pair from the 17th century is divided into three panels and profusely decorated. The marginal arabesques interspersed with animals are found in other contemporary media, most notably the arts of the book. The central lobed medallions depict a scene of two lovers sitting on a garden terrace overlooking trees. The smaller medallions above and below bear animal motifs, while the surrounding outer twenty quatrefoil medallions contain single bust portraits of young men wearing various headgear.