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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Bronze Inkwell (Mihbara)
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Bronze Inkwell (Mihbara) - LO.689
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 10 th Century AD to 12 th Century AD
Dimensions: 4.50" (11.4cm) high x 3.675" (9.3cm) depth
Collection: Islamic art
Medium: Bronze


Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Description
Large cylindrical inkwell with knobbed lid, cast and engraved on the base with concentric ridges. The lid is kept in place by three long knobbed rivets that insert through the lid into the chanlles attached to the interior of the well.

Most of the early Islamic metalwork was cast in quarternary bronze, i.e. brass with the addition of tin and lead. The decoration was either cast, pierced or engraved and especially this last type had a tendency before the 11th century to become increasingly complicated and detailed.

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.

For a comparable example see: Hayward Gallery, The Arts of Islam, 1976: pl.183, p. 172. LO.689. Inkwell (mihbara, dawat), cast bronze. Cylindrical body with flat narrow splayed base, everted flat rim with low and everted and flat lower part whuch has three small knobs, domical central part topped by a knob-shaped finial. Afghanistan, 9th – 10th century. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. Geoffrey King - (LO.689)

 

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