London, England, United Kingdom
The British Museum
About hegira 692–743 / AD 1293–1341
Brass inlaid with silver and gold.
Height 22.7 cm, diameter (of rim) 54 cm
Egypt or Syria.
A spectacular piece of Mamluk metalwork in the form of a large basin with a flared rim, covered inside and out with silver and gold inlay decoration. A striking thuluth inscription surrounds the central panel of the bowl giving the name and titles of the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun, who ruled between AH 692 and 743 / AD 1293 and 1341. This basin is one of a number of metalwork vessels from this period featuring bold inscriptions as the main decorative element. The principal inscription is set against arabesques whose tendrils transform into ducks or birds. Dividing the inscription are three medallions filled with lotus flowers, and a small epigraphic blazon in the centre that reads: ‘Glory to our master, the sultan’. Above and below this central panel are two friezes of floral scrolls alternating with six roundels containing further inscriptions.
The presence of lotus blossoms and peonies derives from chinoiserie designs, imported by the Mongols in Iran; these floral designs are also found in Iranian art at this time. The inscription around the rim of the interior reads: ‘Glory to our master, the Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir the wise, the efficient, the warrior, the champion of the faith, the defender Nasir al-Dunya wa’l-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun, may his victory be glorious’. Large basins such as this one were used for a number of ceremonial functions. However, the circling fish in the base suggest that this basin was used as an ablution vessel.
A large brass basin covered in silver and gold inlay, probably used as a vessel for ritual ablutions. A bold inscription band around the body of the basin is the main decorative feature, and displays the name and titles of the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir al-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun (AH 692–743 / AD 1293–1341).
Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun
The object is inscribed with the name Sultan Nasir al-Din Muhammad (r. 692–743 / 1293–1341). He was a great patron of the arts, commissioning many buildings as well as numerous fine objects; this object was made during his reign.
Acquired by the British Museum in 1851.
The basin would have been made in Egypt or Syria as both countries were under the rule of the patron, Sultan Nasir al-Din Muhammad.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington, D.C., 1981, p.89–90, cat. no. 26.
Barrett, D., Islamic Metalwork in the British Museum, London, 1949, plate no. 28.
Phillips, T., (ed.) Africa: The Art of a Continent, London, 1996, p.587.
Ward, R., Islamic Metalwork, London, 1993, pp.111–3, fig. 88.
Emily Shovelton "Basin" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;28;en
Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton
Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK1 33
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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