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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Engraved Copper Alloy Inkwell (Mihbara)
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Engraved Copper Alloy Inkwell (Mihbara) - LO.876
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 10th th Century AD to 12th th Century AD
Dimensions: 2.75" (7.0cm) high x 3" (7.6cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Quarternary Bronze

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Small cylindrical inkwell with knobbed lid, cast and engraved with concentric bands of waves around the shoulder and the base and on the sides of the lid, engraved medallions featuring a pseudo Kufic character around the lower part of the body.

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.

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.876. Inkwell (mihbara, dawat), cast bronze with engraved decoration. Round with three tubes attached to it, flat base, flat topped cover with a small domical centre topped by a small knob. Engraved scrolls run around the base, on top below the rim and another one on the sides of the cover. The internal tube served for the strings which hold the bodt and the cover together. Afghanistan, probablyGhazni, 10th – 11th century. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. Geoffrey King - (LO.876)


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