Name of Object:

Brass box


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 631–57 / AD 1233–59

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Engraved and silver inlaid brass.


Height 10.2 cm, diameter (of base) 11 cm; upper diameter (of lid) 8.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Atabeg / Ayyubid


Mosul, Iraq.


A cylindrical brass box with a hinged lid, inlaid with silver decoration. The lid has a plait design around the edge and four ducks with their necks bent backwards in a knot pattern in the centre. A series of quatrefoil medallions with alternating arabesques and figures, surrounded by a geometric pattern, decorate the body of the box. An Arabic inscription around the lid reads: 'Glory to our master, the clement King, all wise, just, aided by God, victorious, having the support of the Deity, who combats infidels, who practices devotion, Badr al-din Lu'lu', the sword of the commander of the faithful'. Badr al-Din Lu'lu' was appointed Atabeg (Turkish 'father-lord') for three Zangid princes from AH 615–31 / AD 1218–33. Atabegs, initially guardians or tutors for princes of the Seljuq dynasty, grew more powerful while the authority of the Seljuqs waned. In AH 631 / AD 1233 Badr al-Din Lu'lu' became an independent ruler and took sovereign title of Malik al-Rahim after obtaining an investiture from the Abbasid Caliph, al-Mustansir. Badr al-Din Lu'lu' was an active patron of the metalwork industry; no fewer than five extant inlaid metal objects bear his name. Although the inlaid technique was borrowed from the East, the decorative motifs and vessel forms were from local models.

View Short Description

Mosul was renowned for its metalwork industry in the early AH 7th / AD 13th century. This brass box, inlaid with silver, is particularly interesting as it is inscribed with the name Badr al-din Lu’lu’, who was ruler of Mosul and a keen patron of inlaid metalwork.

Original Owner:

Badr al-Din Lu'lu'

How date and origin were established:

The inscription contains the name of Badr al-Din Lu'lu' and his sovereign title; the box would have been produced, therefore, when Badr al-Din was ruler of Mosul between AH 631–59 / AD 1233–59.

How Object was obtained:

Bequeathed by John Henderson in 1878.

How provenance was established:

The inscription mentions the ruler of Mosul, Badr al-Din Lu'lu'. Mosul was a prosperous city on the banks of the Tigris in northern Iraq with a thriving metalwork industry.

Selected bibliography:

Rice, D. S., "The Brasses of Badr al-Din Lulu", in Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies 13, 1951, pp.627–34.

Ward, R., Islamic Metalwork, London, 1993, p.80.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Brass box" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022.;ISL;uk;Mus01;11;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 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: UK1 14


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