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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Bronze Alloy Inkwell (Mihbara)
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Bronze Alloy Inkwell (Mihbara) - LO.850
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 11 th Century AD to 12 th Century AD
Dimensions: 5" (12.7cm) high x 3.94" (10.0cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Lidded inkwell engraved and repousse', the body inscribed throughout.

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. - (LO.850)


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