Khorassan Decorated Bronze Inkwell



    gift of: Professor Gary Hanson

    date: 12th Century AD

    provenance: Khorassan

    description: This inkwell was found in Khorassan, a province of Persia which is modern day Iran. The general shape of our inkwell is very typical of other inkwells of the same time period. It is bronze and may have had a silver inlay that has worn off. Bronze and bronze alloys were among the most important materials for artisans in the Islamic world. Roundels featuring harpies or sphinxes repeat along its body, and a roundel of a bird features on the base. The fantastic harpies and sphinxes came from Greek mythology, while birds are generally thought to have had positive associations in Islam, and are found on numerous pieces. There appears to be a kufic inscription on the lid. Common inscriptions include “peace be upon him [Muhammad]” and wishes of good fortune and blessing, the name of the creator, the date and place of production, or quotes from the Qur’an. Literacy was fairly widespread in the Muslim world, and many objects have inscriptions. The effort put into its decoration shows the importance of this object, demonstrating the wealth and social standing of the owner. The loops on this inkwell would have had string or chain through them, which could be used to attach the inkwell to the owner’s body, a popular fashion accessory for the literate.