Cast, bronze oil lamp with silver inlay, chased and
punched decoration; spherical, fluted body
upon tall, splayed foot, similarly fluted; short
with nozzle flanked by pseudo-volutes; high,
openwork handle with elephant terminal; central
pouring hole covered by hinged lid; small, lug
handle on either side of body; decoration
silver inlay Kufic inscription to shoulder;
registers to body and base; silver inlay rosette on
either side of spout.
This beautiful piece of metalwork stems from a
period of great transition in Central Asia, an
historical region that today denotes Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and
Central Asia prospered after the advent of Islam
7th Century ACE; crisscrossed by trade routes
connected Muslim lands with the people of
India and China, the region flourished as a hub of
world culture. From around 10th Century ACE
however we see a period of decline, which lasted
until the Mongols came into power during 13th
This political vista was defined by great power
transfers that divided the region into several
autonomous states. Naturally, this circumstance
repercussions in art and we see influence across
vast area, both contemporary and pre-Islamic.
Rather than ignoring the traditions of the cultures
they encountered, artisans took inspiration and
carried metalwork to new heights by working in
forms and techniques.
Form, material and decorative techniques were
appropriated from classical techniques
to Islam by Late Roman and Byzantine sources.
this case, the openwork handle, rosettes,
volutes and fluting all mimic Byzantine lamps.
The technique of silver inlay was still a relatively
praxis at this time, having been established
The inscription has been abstracted to an almost
unintelligible level fulfilling a prevalent desire for
abstract forms. The choice of Arabic denotes a
desire to emulate the preceding Arab states.
The use of animal imagery is prolific at this time,
though depictions of elephants are rather rare
may be have been inspired by some eastern
influence. The floral shape of the vessel may also
point to Indian influence.
While, depictions of elephants are scant in
art, a small cast bronze elephant and cup with an
elephant on the handle have both been found
regions in Central Asia during 10th-11th
emphasising the influence of Buddhist image-