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
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
the rim and another one on the sides of the cover.
The internal tube served for the strings which
the bodt and the cover together.
Afghanistan, probablyGhazni, 10th – 11th century.
Prof. Geza Fehervari
Prof. Geoffrey King