Name of Object:



Madrid, Spain

Holding Museum:

National Archaeological Museum

 About National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

Date of Object:

Hegira 4th century/ AD 10th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Clay; fired, wheel-thrown, green and manganese, glazed.


Height 7.6 cm, diameter 5.75 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyads of al-Andalus, Caliphate period


Madinat al-Zahra (Cordoba)?, Spain.


Almost cylindrical inkwell with a convex base and raised rim with four circular-section handles. The exterior is glazed and decorated using the green and manganese technique. X-rays reveal that from the aperture there is a channel going down 2.9 cm into the receptacle for the ink. This channel is also glazed and was made separately and later joined to the aperture. Various similar pieces are known: one can be found in the Museum of the Alcazaba of Almería; another in Corbières (France); a third, made of glass, is in Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran. A fourth example, held in the Louvre Museum in Paris, is an interesting precedent, since it dates from the AH 3rd / AD 9th century and was discovered during an excavation at Susa. This last piece, from the same era as others found in Samarkand, Nishapur and Siraf (Persia), suggests that these inkwells originate from the Middle East, from where they would have spread to the West.

View Short Description

Portable inkwell worn from the belt. A duct, running from the opening down into the recipient, prevented the ink from spilling out. The calligrapher would have used it with a pen to write letters and documents for money, and it became the symbol of the writer.

How date and origin were established:

By its stylistic characteristics and its similarity to other inkwells of this era.

How Object was obtained:

The inkwell was acquired by the State and placed in the National Archaeological Museum at an unknown date.

How provenance was established:

The source of the inkwell is not stated in its documentation. Production of this type of object was very limited, and its possible origin has been established by the clarity and austerity of its decorative design linking it to Madinat al-Zahra, a major centre of production of ceramics in green and manganese.

Selected bibliography:

Al-Andalus y el Mediterráneo, Cádiz, 1995.
Bernus-Taylor, M., “Encrier”, in Les Andalusies de Damas à Cordue, Paris, 2000, p.128, no. 123.
Llagosteras, E. and Zozaya, J., “Análisis Radiográfico de un Tintero Califal”, Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, Vol. LXXX, no. 4, Madrid, 1977, pp.911–15.

Citation of this web page:

Ángela Franco "Inkwell" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;es;Mus01;4;en

Prepared by: Ángela Franco
Copyedited by: Rosalía Aller
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SP 06