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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection Consignment : Splendid Seljuk Inkwell
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Splendid Seljuk Inkwell - JB.1332
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 11th th Century AD to 12th th Century AD
Dimensions: 3.7" (9.4cm) high x 3" (7.6cm) wide
Collection: Islamic
Style: Ink Well
Medium: Bronze Alloy/Bronze


Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Description
Cast bronze/brass inkwell with punched and incised figurative and arabesque decoration; three registers depicting essential attributes of a princely life, man writing, man with musical instrument and man offering libation; punched, scrolling vines surrounding; Kufic inscription to lid, reading; fantastic, zoomorphic depictions amid punched scrolling vines to base. Of nomadic and Khazar Jewish origin, the Seljuks (ACE 1040-1250) were a Turkic-Persian dynasty of slaves and mercenaries that established themselves as guardians of the declining Abbasid dynasty in Baghdad. Expansion left the Seljuks with a vast empire that stretched from Central Asia to parts of Anatolia and included Iraq, Iran and Syria. Metalwork is carried to new heights under Seljuk helm and we see the enrichment of existing forms and techniques and development of new ones, e.g. silver inlay. Human figures appear extensively in art. Their rather distinct physiognomy (ample visage, high cheekbones and almond eyes) and dress, as we see here, bears witness to Turkish and Mongol ethnic types and serves as a useful historical index of these peoples’ appearance, as well as the spread of Central Asian figurative and stylistic influence. Owing to the emphasis placed on writing in the Qu’ran, inscriptions have a prominent place in the culture of the Islamic world. This transpired to an ardent desire for everyday objects ornamented with inscriptions. While the Seljuks spoke Farsi and a Turkic language, the choice of Arabic here denotes a desire to emulate the preceding Arab states. The princely cycle and scenes of bourgeois life are particularly favoured in art during this period. When removed from a manuscript, these scenes become symbols of the good things here on earth and awaiting us in heaven. Foliate displays and the use of arabesque allude to the perpetual nature and movement of the universe. Some scholars have argued that in view of their abstract form and possibility to extend them indefinitely, they may be interpreted as metaphors for the infiniteness of God. A tendency for abstraction is also demonstrated by the suppression of the inscriptions to a near unintelligible level, which may well represent a direct link to the qualities attributed to the divine. The three brackets were intended to fix cords for carrying. The inkwell would have been packed with layers of silk to absorb the ink - hirb - and prevent the nib overflowing- a technique that has not been wholly effective here as we still have traces of original ink on the underside of the lid. LK183 GREEN-GLAZED EWER WITH ZOOMORPHIC SPOUT, CENTRAL ASIA, ACE 800-1000 Sizeable, earthenware ewer, relief decorated beneath lead-based green-glaze over whole bar some exposure to the groundline; rotund body formed of two mould-made halves, the seam carefully rubbed down; applied short neck bearing zoomorphic spout with filling hole at back of the head and pierced snout, connected to neck by strut, acting as pouring hole; applied handle; the decoration to the lower body consists of a series of interposing triangles, interstices filled with leaves; the upper body with motif of alternating triangles filled with six-tier rosettes and quatrefoils bordered by pearls; two tooled bands to the neck; the animal’s narrow head with two large circular eyes, flanked by rounded, pierced ears and twin triangular horns; crowned by tuft. This exceptional example of early Abbasid green- glazed ware survives to us, intact, from Central Asia. Immediately prior to this, during 7th century, the Islamic ceramic industry was revolutionised by the adoption of the practise of glazing vessels. The same vessels, hitherto unglazed were treated with lead-based glazes, which transformed surfaces with their rich colour and glossy finish and would become the markers of a tradition that would endure over many centuries. The period is notable for an increased level of production and wider distribution of glazed wares. The purpose of glazing a vessel evolved from functional – the glaze rendering the vessel impervious to the liquids it was designed to contain – to aesthetic. The standard of finish in this case is exceptional. The quality and refinement of the decoration in combination with the technical feat in the combination of a complex aesthetic and practical function. The three brackets were intended to fix cords for carrying. The inkwell would have been packed with layers of silk to absorb the ink - hirb - and prevent the nib overflowing- a technique that has not been wholly effective here as we still have traces of original ink on the underside of the lid. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. Geoffrey King - (JB.1332)

 

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