The Walters Art Museum
[email protected]
410-547-9000, ext. 277

The Art of the Writing Instrument from Paris to Persia

July 2–September 25, 2011

The Walters Art Museum
600 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

This focus show features approximately 25 writing instruments produced in cosmopolitan centers such as Paris, Isfahan and Kyoto. Every culture that values the art of writing has found ways to reflect the prestige and pleasure of writing through beautiful tools. Writing implements, such as pens, knives and scissors, as well as storage chests, pen-cases and writing desks, were often fashioned with precious materials: mother of pearl, gems, imported woods, gold and silver. Such items are exceptional works of art that are rarely exhibited in museums.

This exhibition provides a view into the intimate world of the writing instrument—personal objects used by individuals empowered with the skill to inscribe. Among these are a stunning Ottoman Turkish penbox and penholder, a lady’s desk from late 18th-century master cabinetmaker Maurice-Bernand Evalde and a writing-box (suzuri-bako) from Edo Japan. Objects such as these, owned by statesmen, calligraphers, wealthy merchants and women of stature, highlight the ingenuity of the artists who created them and attest to the centrality of the written word in the diverse cultures that produced them.

Hours are Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Anonymous (Turkish), Penbox, 18th century, gilt metal set with rubies (or spinels), and emeralds, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (51.78)

Anonymous (Turkish), Penholder and Reed Pen, 18th century, gilt metal set with rubies (or spinels) and emeralds, reed, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, (51.87)

General museum information: 410-547-9000 or

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