Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira 698–708 / AD 1299–1309 or AH 709–741 / AD 1309–40
Copper inlaid with gold and silver.
Height 22.5 cm, diameter 7.6 cm
Egypt, probably Cairo.
A perfume or rosewater sprinkler that is characterised by a slightly elevated base, a pear-shaped body and an elongated neck - the neck decorated with a composition of intertwined vegetal leaf motifs. An inscription in thuluth script adorns the lower portion of the neck, it reads: 'May you have eternal glory, felicity and long life in the morning and evening'. The circular area that joins the body and the neck is filled with decorative elements such as vegetal leafy tendrils, interrupted by small medallions in the form of flowers.
The body of the sprinkler is decorated with five bands: the first, which is located at the base of the neck, contains floral decorations of lotus blossoms interrupted by roundels containing rosettes. The second is composed of diamond-shaped motifs with segmented borders, inside which are depictions of flying ducks. Circular medallions that hold the blazon of Sultan Hasan ibn al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun interrupt this band. The third, widest, band bears an epigraphic inscription in thuluth script that reads: 'Glory to our lord, the sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Nasir al-Dunya wa'l-Din al-Malik al-Nasir Hasan'. The inscription, set against a background of inlaid vegetal decoration, is interrupted by three poly-lobed cartouches that hold further inscriptions radiating from a small rosette in the centre. The fourth decorative band resembles the second in both layout and design; the body ends with a final narrow band embellished with leafy designs. The base is decorated with small rosettes placed against a background of vegetal-leaf decoration.
As Islam recommends the use of perfumes, factories to extract essences from plant and animal sources increased. Caliphs, sultans and amirs kept perfumes in containers of various shapes and materials. This brass sprinkler, inlaid with gold and silver, carries the epigraphic blazon of Sultan Hasan.
Sultan al-Nasir Hasan ibn al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun who reigned three times: AH 693–4 / AD 1294–5; AH 698–708 / AD 1299–1309; AH 709–41 / AD 1309–40
This piece can be dated to the reign of Sultan al-Nasir Hasan ibn al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun who reigned three times between AH 693 / AD 1294 and 741 / 1340, in view of the fact that the inscriptions carved on it bear both his name and emblem. Furthermore the decorative style and the technique used in the production of this object strongly correspond to other pieces that were made during this period in Egypt, particularly Cairo.
The sprinkler was bought in 1945 from an antiquities dealer, Ralph Harari.
The perfume sprinkler was made for the Sultan al-Nasir Hasan ibn al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun whose blazon appears within circular medallions on the body. One inscription on the bottle reads: 'Glory to our lord, the sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Nasir al Dunya wa'l-Din al-Malik al-Nasir Hasan'. Furthermore, the decorative style and the technique used in the production of this perfume sprinkler further supports a provenance of Cairo.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
Hamdi, A., et al, Katalog Ma'rid al-fan al-islāmi fi misr [Catalogue of the Islamic Art Exhibition in Egypt], Cairo, 1969.
Mustafa, M., Al-Wihda fi al-fan al-islāmi [Unity in Islamic art], Cairo, 1958.
Stierlin, H., and Stierlin, A., Splendours of the Islamic World: Mamluk Art in Cairo (1250–1517), London, New York. 1997.
Wiet, G., “Les Objets en Cuivre”, in Catalogue général du Musée arabe, Cairo, 1932.
Salah Sayour "Perfume sprinkler" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;eg;Mus01;1;en
Prepared by: Salah SayourSalah Sayour
Salah Ahmad Sayour holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University (1973) and is currently studying for an MA in the same field. In 1979 he had a four-month scholarship at Austrian museums to study museology. Preparing exhibitions for the Museum of Islamic Art's collections in the Arab World Institute, Paris and curating exhibitions held in host museums in the USA and Paris augmented his experience leading to his appointment as head of several sections at the Museum. He has written several articles on Islamic painting and arts for Prism Magazine published by the Ministry in different languages and has participated in preparing scientific texts for the catalogues for the Museum's exhibitions at home and abroad.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: ET 01
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court
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