Tareq Rajab Museum




Syria, Umayyad period, 7th – 8th century

Length 22cm; Ht. 15.7cm


Cylindrical body rests on three feet which are in the shape of animal paws and heads on top. The openwork decoration of the body depicts animals, most likely deer. The opening domical lid is also decorated in openwork showing human figures,  animals and scrollwork. It is capped by a palmette-shaped finial. A long handle is attached to the body at right angle; it is also in openwork and terminates in an animal’s head.




         Iraq or Iran, 7th or 8th century

         Ht. 36.7cm; Top diam. 5.7cm



         The pear-shaped body has an elaborate collar, waisted neck and opening mouth with a long and pointed spout; the tall and rolled S-shaped handle has a goat-shaped thumb-piece on top. There are pearls and series of small squares in relief around the edges of the mouth, which originally may have had a lid. It rests on a comparatively tall splayed foot and has a flat base.





         Iran, Khorasan, 9th – 10th century

         Top diam. 13.5cm; Ht. 7cm



         High tin bronze, the handle is made of ordinary bronze. This handled cup belongs to the interesting group of metal vessels which were made of high tin, or white bronze, in Persian sefīd rūy or in Arabic nuhās abyad, an alloy of copper and zinc. The vessel has a sunken almost completely flat base, round flaring sides and slightly in-curved rim. The handle, which is made of ordinary bronze, is in the shape of a bird’s head. On the exterior, at the centre of the base a cluster of small, so-called ‘punched-dotted circles form a rosette, while the edges of the base are marked by a band of similar circles between double concentric lines. A second such band runs around the lower part of the side walls, followed by two horizontal bands of unequal width. The lower one contains larger version of the dotted circles with addition of smaller ones in between, all grouped in three. The upper and narrower band is a smaller version of the lower one. Inside, at the well there is a cluster of dotted circles forming a small rosette, with several concentric lines around the edge of the base and the lower part of the cavetto, with connecting short vertical strokes.



         For detailed study of these high tin or white bronzes, cf. A.S. Melikian-Chirvani, “The White Bronzes of Early Islamic Iran”, Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 9, 1974, pp.123-551; also Simin Lakpour, Sefīd Rūy, Tehran, 1997. A detailed study of the Tareq Rajab Museum’s high tin bronzes is in preparation and will be published in the near future.       



         Iran, Khorasan, 10th – 11th century

         Top diam. 26.5cm; Ht. 12cm



         High tin bronze cast, with engraved decoration. Hemispherical body with inverted, nearly flat rim and rounded base. The outside is entirely decorated with engraved designs and punched dotted circles. The decoration is arranged in four horizontal registers: the top one carries a foliate Kufic inscription; the second one is decorated with a series of walking birds; the third one again presents an epigraphic band; the last one surrounds the base and again displays walking birds, but this band is broken up by vertical lines, forming seven compartments, each one with two birds. At the base there is a small star, followed by seven small starts within roundels, then seven radiating wedge-shaped compartment, each with a seated in a cross-legged position, crowned with a three-peaked crown on their heads. There is a floating semi-palmette in front of their heads. The background all over has punched circles. Inside the vessel is plain, save the well where there is a round medallion depicting three walking dogs, their ears forming a triangle, with small bushes separating them against dotted background. The inscriptions appear to be benedictory, but with numerous mistakes.



         Afghanistan, probably Ghazni, first half of the 12th century

         Ht. with the dome 39cm; Ht. of the body 19.7cm; Ht. of the dome with the finial 19.7cm; length of the handle support 27.8cm; weight 9kg 470grms.



         Bronze, cast in several sections, with extensive openwork and engraved decoration. It shape, with the square body and the large domical lid imitates             the form of Buddhist stupas, in particular one stupa in Afghanistan, the stupa of Ghuldara, some 30km outside Kabul. There is a long handle attached to it which terminates in the protome of a lion that serves as its support. The feet are in the shape of animal legs and above showing the protomes of rabbits. The large domical lid is capped by the Buddhist emblem of a chatri, an    umbrella. On top of the body at its four corners there are lion heads, mostly imitating the corner minarets of the Samanid mausoleum at Bukhara. Three sides of the body are divided into three decorative bands of unequal width,   separated by zigzag lines. The central band carries an epigraphic band, written in beautiful thuluth style over scroll ground, executed in openwork. The inscription on each three sides are interrupted by a round medallion, presenting a seated figure, who appears to be not a Muslim figure, but a Boddhisattva. The inscriptions are benedictory and read:

         “al-‘izz wa ‘l-iqbāl wa / al-daula wa ‘l-sa’ād[a] / wa al-salāma wa ‘l-sa’ā[da]” 

         “glory and prosperity / good fortune  and felicity / and peace and felicity”.

         The upper narrow band shows series of connected five-lobed palmettes, while the lower one depicts running animals.  On the fourth side, where the handle is attached, between the upper band palmettes and the lower one’s running animals, a pair of wings are formed in relief, as if they were the wings to the handle supporting lion. The long handle is an irregular octagon in section, the corner sides being very narrow and carry intertwined scrolls, forming series of pearl motifs; on top there is a Kufic inscription, while the two sides again resent running animals. The Kufic inscription on the top reads: “wa ‘l-birr wa l-baraka wa ‘l-daula…wa ‘l-karāma…wa ‘l-birr”  - “…and loyalty and ivine blessing and power and…Divine favour and loyalty”.

         The lid carries a benedictory inscription in thuluth identical to those on the three sides. There are also two figures: a Boddhisattva and a Muslim figure holding a cup.


Géza Fehérvári, “Islamic incense burners and the influence of Buddhist art”, in Iconography of Islam. Festschrift in Honour of Professor Robert Hillenbrand, edited by Bernard O’Kane, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2005.    

          Comparative Material

There are two similar incense burners known at present. One of them is in the Freer Gallery in Washington, inv.no.FGA.52.1, cf. Atil, Chase and Jett, 1985, no.2; Eva Baer, 1983, fig.32, pp.46-7. It was attributed to Egypt and dated to the 9th century. While the date seems to be correct, the attribution to Egypt is certainly wrong. The other one is in the State Historical Museum’s collection in Stockholm, attributed to Iran and a date suggested: later than 800 AD. Cf.  Islam. Art and Culture, State Historical Museum, Stockholm, 1985, no.1. Ht. 34.5cm; length ca. 40cm.



         Egypt, Fātimid period, 11th – 12th century

         Length 18.5cm; Ht. 7cm; Width 10cm


         Cast bronze with openwork decoration. Round body, except in front where it is pointed in the middle and is flanked by two deep and long wick holes; it has vertical sides. Opposite the wick holes is the handle with a flat rising panel, ring handle with an attached decorated top, however that is not original. The top part of the body carries an openwork decoration around the central filling hole, showing a series of three-lobed palmettes within heart-shaped motifs; the central lobe is split, which is typical of the Fātimid period.

          Comparative Material

Similar carved decoration is to be seen on a Fātimid    carved wood panel, cf. The Arts of Islam, London, 1976, no.447, p.287, dated to the 12th century. There is a similarly decorated bronze oil lamp in the           Bumiller collection, cf. Monika Dahncke, 1992, no.BC660, abb. 22 on p.66 and 67. Identified as Iranian and dated to the 9th century.




         Eastern Iran or Central Asia, 12th – 13th century

         Top diam. 20cm; Ht. 17.2cm



         Cast bronze with engraved and copper inlaid decoration. Spherical body, resting on a tall and splayed foot, on top everted flat rim to which two hooks are attached to hold the swing handle. The decoration of the body is divided into three unequal registers; the middle one is considerably wider than the two flanking ones. The central one carries circular medallions alternating with lobed cartouches. All of these are decorated with engraved sphinxes against scroll ground. The top register is divided into four elongated panels, each with an epigraphic band, written in cursive script over scrollwork, The inscriptions are engraved and read: “al-‘izz wa ‘l-iqbāl wa ‘l-daulat wa / ‘l-‘ināyat wa ‘l-rahmat wa ‘l-dawāmat wa / ‘l-sa’ādat wa ‘l-salāmat wa ‘l-shifā / at wa ‘l-qanā’at wa ‘l-baqā li-sāhibihi” , “glory, prosperity, power, success, ease, joy, longevity, good fortune, peace, influence, satisfaction and continuity to the owner”. Between these panels there are copper inlaid roundels with leafs. The lowest and narrowest  register carries another benedictory inscription which repeats the top one. A further inscription in four panels is on the everted flat          rim, but it is written in Kufic style. The panels are separated by copper inlaid large roundels. The base carries a series of vertical strokes.



         Iran, Khorasan, 10th - 11th century

         Ht. 18cm; Top diam. 13.5cm


         Cast bronze with engraved, openwork and punched decoration. The vessel has a widely opening vase-shaped globular body, with inverted top, leaving a large circular opening and rests on a splayed base. Its bottom panel is missing. The lower part of the body is gadrooned, followed by a wide decorative register in which intertwined lines form eight large roundels, each decorated with openwork geometrical scrollwork. Similar designs fill the areas between the roundels on top and below. A narrow epigraphic band runs around the    shoulder, followed by a series of punched dots on the rim.



         Iran, late 12th – early 13th century

         Ht. 28.5cm; Top diam. 15cm.


         Cast bronze with engraved and silver and bronze inlaid decoration. It has a   six-lobed base, each lobe with a convex oval dish, then a rising shaft to which one element is firmly attached to the base, two others are loose, but fixed to each other; the lower one is faceted. Circular tray with serrated rim on top and sloping rim. The dishes at the base are decorated with peacocks against scroll ground. The first shaft shows clusters of dots  inlaid with silver; the second     one has lancers and dots also in silver, while the third shaft once more has clusters of dots. The sloping sides of the tray has three copper inlaid roundels and between clusters of dots, below the serrated rim there is a band of copper inlay. The tray has alternate copper inlaid roundels and silver clusters of dots and the same type of clusters in the centre.



         Iran, 13th century

         Ht. 25cm; Top diam. 9.3cm


         Hammered bronze with silver inlaid and stamped decoration. Globular body, resting on a low, splayed and segmented base, short vertical neck with a collar below the neck and another below the rolled rim. It has a large handle with a bird sitting on top. The neck carries a silver inlaid epigraphic band over scrollwork, written in cursive style, reading: “al’-izz wa ‘l-iqbāl wa ‘l-‘ināyat wa ‘l-qanā’at li-sāhibihi”, “glory, success, custody and satisfaction to the owner”. The domical lid is segmented and is capped by a rose-bud finial. Each segment is decorated with a stamped arabesque.




          Iran, Khurasan, 12th or early 13th century

            Ht. 28cm



          Cast bronze with incised and copper inlaid decoration. It has a pear-shaped body, tall tapering neck with a collar below into which a narrow concentric line was inlaid with copper; on top it terminates in a zoomorphic head and spout, the opening has a lion-headed small lid. Tall and bent elegant handle is attached with a palmette-shaped thumb-piece on top which on its front side has a floral design in a round medallion, while on its back there is small red glass embedded within several circles. It rests on a splayed flat base which has a sunken six-lobed rosette. The incised decoration on the foot has a pseudo-Kufic epigraphic band, interrupted by several circles. On the body, below the spout there is a lobed cartouche, outlined with inlaid copper and inside it depicting a standing peacock against scroll background. There are two more pseudo-Kufic epigraphic bands running around the body, interrupted by round medallions with floral patterns. On the lower part of the intertwined scrolls run around interrupted only by the lobed medallion. Three vase, or cypress tree designs decorate the neck.



          Iran, probably Khurasan, late 12th – early 13th century

            Ht. 10.5cm; width 7cm



            Cast bronze with engraved and copper and silver inlaid decoration. Cylindrical, slightly upward tapering body with a flat base, a low flange and wide rim on top. There are traces of three hinges, which are outlined in copper inlay, but the actual hinges are now missing. The decoration on the body is divided into three horizontal registers, which are separated by narrow copper inlaid concentric lines. The top one presents an undulating silver inlaid scroll over engraved scroll ground; in the middle register there is a somewhat naively written benedictory inscription in cursive style, with the usual phrases, reading: al-‘izz wa ‘l-iqbāl wa ‘l-daulat wa ‘l-dawāmat wa ’l-sa’ādat, “glory, prosperity, power, constancy and happiness”. The third band is similar to the top one repeating the undulating scroll design in silver inlay over engraved scroll ground. The lid has a domical fluted center with a large boss on top. The low vertical side rim of the lid displays a silver inlaid undulating scroll over engraved leafy ground. On the flat top part of the lid the silver inlaid inscription repeats the same benedictory phrases, except that the last two words are missing. The base has an engraved undulating scroll design in a narrow band which runs around. On the lid one hook is still in place and traces of the other two are visible.



         Iran, Khorasan, late 13th or early 14th century

         Ht. 34.5cm; Base diam. 12.2cm


         Cast bronze with engraved and silver inlaid decoration. It has a spherical lobed body with twenty-three lobes, stepped slightly sloping shoulder, cylindrical neck with a high spout in the shape of a bird’s head, tall handle with a vase-shaped thumb-piece on top, resting on a splayed foot-ring. Every second lobe on the body is decorated with trellis work, interrupted by a roundel showing an enlarged version of the “Solomon’s seal” or what is also known as the “eternal Buddhist knot”. An undulating engraved scroll decorates the lower part of the shoulder, interrupted again by small roundels filled by the simplified version of “Solomon’s seal”. The upper part of the shoulder carries a silver inlaid pseudo-epigraphic band which seems to be a version of the so-called “animated script”, imitating serpents. This band is interrupted by roundels showing silver inlaid clusters of dots, a trade mark of Khorasan.  Scrollwork and “Solomon’s seals” and two large bosses are one on each side of the neck. Pair of bosses flank the spout, symbolising the eyes of a bird.




         Egypt, late Mamlūk period, late 15th or early 16th century

         Length 30cm; Ht. 18.5cm; Width 19cm


         Tinned copper with extensive engraved and incised decoration. Oval-shaped with straight sides, slightly domed pyramidal lid with a finial handle resting on a hexagonal plate. The incised and engraved decoration on the sides is presented in three bands. The central one is considerably wider and it has eight large roundels, each filled by the typical Mamlūk Y –fret patterns. Between these two roundels in the centre, on both sides, there are cursive inscriptions, written in Mamlūk naskh style in two lines over dotted ground. The rest of the sides is filled by geometrical patterns. The upper and lower narrow bands have intertwined geometrical interlace, interrupted by small swastika decorated roundels. The sloping sides of the lid have identical decoration to the sides of the vessel, but on the flat top, on either side of the handle there are engraved floral patterns.  


         For a detailed study of Mamlūk lunch boxes, cf. J.W. Allan, “Later Mamluk Metalwork. II. A Series of Lunch-boxes”, Oriental Art, vol.XVII/no. 2, 1971.



Iran, Safavid period, 16th century

Top diam. 24cm; Ht. 15.5cm


Hammered and raised copper with engraved and incised decoration. The wide globular body has a short and waisted neck, everted rim and rounded base. The upper part of the body is decorated with a chain motif from which lobed cartouches are hanging down showing animals and arabesques, while further below there are lobed medallions with flowers. The neck carries an epigraphic band written in nasta’liq style, bordered on top by vine scrolls. Inside there are traces of tin.



         Iran, Safavid period, 16th century

         Ht. 45cm; Top diam. 12.2cm


         Cast brass with engraved decoration. Tall, cylindrical and tapering shaft, resting on a slightly splayed base and ending on top with an everted flat rim. The shaft is divided into three horizontal parts by two collars, the central one being much wider. All three parts are decorated with engraved designs, showing intricate cross-hatchings which at the meeting points have small circles. Each part on top and below have narrow bands of undulating scrolls over hatched ground. On the upper part there are two small hooks attached at opposite sides.



         India, Mughal period,  18th century


         Ht. 16cm; Base diam. 15cm

         Bell-shaped vessel with sloping shoulders, tall and funnel-shaped neck with a collar. The entire surface is decorated with silver and black patterns, showing series of blossoming trees on the body, floral scrolls on the neck and around            the base, separating them by narrow bands of four-petaled rosettes.



         India, Mughal period, 17th century

         Ht. 24cm; Top diam. 9.3cm


         Globular body, tall and waisted neck, everted rim, domical lid, dragon-shaped handle and bent spout. Rich vegetal and floral gold overlay decoration covers the entire body and the lid. 


         This ewer clearly intends to imitate the dragon-handled ewers of the Timurid period.  



         India, Late Mughal period, 19th century



         Rectangular box with an opening lid which has sloping sides; the serrated edges and the series of lotus buds are in relief, in the middle there is an openwork design with pointed centres which may be a crown; two serpent-shaped handles, sloping lower edges, resting on four bent feet. Gold inlaid floral sprays cover the entire surface. On top there is an inscription around the openwork, decoration, reading: “Sazand box Imām Bukhsh Mistry, resident of Kotli Loharan district Sialkot”. The inscription is repeated teice around the    crown.



         Mughal India, 18th century

         Ht. 35cm


         The body is formed by two opposed lion figures, resting on an oval and lobed base which has lotus palmettes; a flower-shaped collar acts for the neck which is made-up by two elephant heads and twisted trunks and terminate in a large blossoming lotus.



         Turkey, 17th – 18th century

         Ht. 30cm; base diam. 7.5cm



         It has a spherical body, rests on a tall and splayed silver base; the shoulder, the neck and the cover of the lower part of the neck are made of silver, but the neck and the body itself are made of amber, which is broken on its lower part. There is a silver collar on the upper part of the neck and it also terminates in the shaped of a rose-bud also made of silver. 



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