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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.1085
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 10th th Century AD to 12th th Century AD
Dimensions: 2.75" (7.0cm) high
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Copper-Alloy

Additional Information: AS
Location: Great Britain
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Small cylindrical inkwell with knobbed lid, cast and engraved with a concentric band of foliage on the lid. On the body, three cartouches with arabesques. Three tiny applique loops on the sides of the body corresponding to other three little handles attached to the sides of the lid would have channelled the ropes through for carrying. Similar inkwells are known signed by craftsmen from Nishapur and Herat.

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.1085. Inkwell (mihbara, dawat), cast bronze. Cylindrical body with a flat base; there are three freely-moving rings attached to the body which fit to the three small hooks on the side of the cover. The cover has a central domical is decorated with series of lotus petals and is capped by a knob- shaped finial. Afghanistan or Iran, 10th – 11th century. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. Godfrey King - (LO.1085)


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