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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.877
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 1100 AD to 1200 AD
Dimensions: 3" (7.6cm) high x 2.5" (6.4cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Quarternary Bronze

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Small cylindrical inkwell with knobbed lid, cast and engraved with inscription in pseudo Kufic on the lid, engraved wave pattern around the body. 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.877)


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