Historical period(s)
Mamluk period, 14th-15th century
Leather over pasteboards
H x W (overall): 26.9 x 39.7 cm (10 9/16 x 15 5/8 in)
Egypt or Syria
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Book cover

Egypt, Henri Vever collection, Mamluk period (1250 - 1517), Syria, WWII-era provenance

Likely Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl (1880-1936), method of acquisition unknown [1]

Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Charles Vignier, "Liquidation de Biens Meyer-Riefstahl: Ayant fait l'objet d'une mesure de séquestre de guerre, première vente," April 23-24, 1923, lot 209 [2]

From at least 1927-1942
Henri Vever (1854-1942), method of acquisition unknown [3]

Jeanne Louise Monthiers (1861-1947), bequest of Henri Vever [4]

Francois Mautin (1907-2003), bequest of Jeanne Louise Monthiers and Henri Vever [5]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased from Francois Mautin [6]


[1] See Hôtel Drouot, Charles Vignier, "Liquidation de Biens Meyer Riefstahl: Ayant fait l'objet d'une mesure de séquestre de guerre, première vente," [auction catalogue] (Paris: Hôtel Drouot, April 23-24, 1923) lot 209. In the inventory prepared in 1986 reportedly based on an appraisal prepared by M. A. Densmore, this book cover came from the Meyer Riefstahl Collection as part of a group of "four bindings with geometric designs in gold and blind." See object file for copy of appraisal. Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl was a German-American art historian specializing in medieval Islamic art. At the beginning of World War I, Meyer Riefstahl relocated from Paris, France, to New York City, where he eventually became a professor at the Institute of Fine Arts. Meyer Riefstahl left his art collection in Paris and the French government sequestered the collection as an "Enemy Alien Asset." The collection was sold in two auctions, the first in 1923 and the second in 1925.

[2] See note 1.

[3] An accomplished French jeweler and collector, Henri Vever (1854-1942) amassed a large and impressive collection of works of art during his lifetime. His holdings in Japanese prints and Islamic arts of the books, especially from Iran and India, were among the most important assembled in the early twentieth century.

It is unclear if Vever acquired this book cover from the Meyer Riefstahl sequestration sale (see notes 1 and 2) or if he purchased them from an intermediary. Regardless, it is likely that Vever owned the book cover by 1927. That year ,Vever loaned one of the other Meyer Riefstahl book covers (S1986.9) to the Gemeente Museum in the Hague, see Gemeente Museum, "Catalogus: Tentoonstelling van Islamische Kunst" [exhibition catalogue] (s-Gravenhage, 15 May--3 July 1927), no. 42.

[4] Upon Henri Vever's death on September 25, 1942, his wife, Jeanne Louise Monthiers inherited the book cover. See exhibits F and G of Agreement of Purchase and Sale of the Henri Vever Collection, January 9, 1986, copy in object file.

[5] Upon the death of Jeanne Louise Monthiers, as stipulated in the will of Henri Vever, the family's assets were divided evenly between his two grandchildren. His only grandson, Francois Mautin inherited the collection known as "The Henri Vever Collection of Oriental Art and Manuscripts Including Persian and Indian Art and Manuscripts." This book cover is part of that collection. See exhibits F and G as cited in note 4.

[6] The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery purchased the entirety of the collection from Francois Mautin on January 9, 1986. See purchase agreement, copy in object file.

Research completed on February 21, 2022.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Henri Vever 1854-1942
Jeanne Louise Monthiers 1861 - 1947
Rudolf Meyer Riefstahl 1880-1936
Francois Mautin 1907 - 2003

Published References
  • Glenn D. Lowry, Milo Cleveland Beach, Elisabeth West FitzHugh, Susan Nemanzee, Janet Snyder. An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection. Washington and Seattle. cat. 467, pp. 367, 370.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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