Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Around hegira 700 / AD 1300
Brass, silver and gold inlay.
Height 10 cm, diameter 21 cm
On the broad border of this wide basin there are depicted, between four round medallions, scenes of courtly pleasure hunts. Three riders are shown in every scene, undertaking various hunting practices. The hunters are fighting in tournament, armed with lances, swords, bows and arrows. One rider is accompanied by a hunting cheetah on a horse. These illustrations represent a view of an idealised life. Images of riders and hunters refer not only to the riding abilities of the princes, but also to the courage, strength and perseverance of the rulers. Depictions of hunters with falcons and leopards could be referring to the immense wealth of the rulers. Only rulers such as these could afford to keep and train such expensive hunting animals, only they could hold such lavish hunting parties. This princely lifestyle reached its height during the Mamluk period. The underside of the basin is decorated with plaited bands, and arabesques, vines and birds fill the spaces in between. The decoration is finished in gold and silver inlay. The precious metal decoration gives the brass receptacle a multicoloured appearance and rich tone.
The coat of arms of Amir Sumul Abu’l-‘Izz, who belonged to the retinue of the ruling Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun, is set at the centre of each of the round medallions. It can be only guessed that Abu’l-‘Izz commissioned the basin on the basis of a fragment of inscription. Abu’l-‘Izz and his brother Salar, viceroy of Egypt, rebelled against the Sultan and were captured and imprisoned in 1310. At the bottom of the basin, two well-wishing inscriptions are addressed to the person who commissioned it, whose identity remains unclear. Sumul Abu’l-‘Izz’s name could have been inscribed here. If it had, the basin would have been dateable to between AH 693 and 710 / AD 1293 and 1310.
The design of this brass water-basin with gold and silver inlays shows a frieze with riders hunting or at a tournament. They are separated by four medallions holding a coat of arms typical of the Mamluk nobility. The basin was commissioned for a Mamluk amir.
The coat of arms suggest that the basin belonged to the patron Sumul Abu’l-'Izz. He was in the service of the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun from 693 to 710 (1293–1310).
As a donation from the Berlin collector Friedrich Sarre, who bought it in 1897.
The Mamluk coat of arms, which establishes the identity of the basin’s patron, points towards Egypt as the country of origin.
Hagedorn, A., Die Blacas-Kanne: Zu Ikonographie und Bedeutung Islamischer Mettallarbeiten des Vorderen Orients im 13. und 14. Jahrhundert, Münster, 1992, pp.127–33, 152–3, no. 162.
Mayer, L. A., “Three Heraldic Bronzes from Palermo”, Ars Islamica 3, 1936, pp.184–6.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Catalogue, Mainz, 2001, p.76.
Sarre, F., Erzeugnisse Islamischer Kunst, Part 1, Metall, Berlin, 1906, no.64.
Ward. R., Islamic Metalwork, London, 1993, 71–93.
Annette Hagedorn "Small water-basin" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;48;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 60
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Mamluk System
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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