Lidded inkwell engraved and repousse', the body
Most of the early Islamic metalwork was cast in
bronze, or more precisely quartenary bronze, or
brass with an addition of lead and tin, then the
decoration was either cast, pierced or engraved,
a manner particularly followed during the 12th
century, when Islamic metalworkers achieved an
international reputation, embellishing their works
with both Kufi and Kaskh inscriptions that often
expressed good wishes for owner, arabesques
and friezes with animals and human figures.
Although small bronze inkwell were used by the
Romans, glass ones were preferred in early
Islamic times. Large metal inkwell emerged
during the 11th century and this particular
typology became standard in Mesopotamia and
Persia during the 12th century. Two types of ink
were used in medieval Islam, one a soluble solid
with a soot base known as midad, the other a
liquid mixture of gallnuts and vitriol called hibr.
Inkwells such as this were intended for the latter
ink, hence their name mihbara. They commonly
held a liq or piece of ink-soaked felt or wool and
were also provided with an inner horizontal rim
to prevent spilling. Three cords fastened to loop
handles on the body and passing through loops
on the lid allowed the object to be safely carried
about. Similar inkwells are known signed by
craftsmen from Nishapur and Herat.
For a comparable example see: Hayward Gallery,
The Arts of Islam, 1976: pl.183, p. 172.