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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection Consignment : Triple Spout Bird Oil Lamp
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Triple Spout Bird Oil Lamp - JB.1255
Circa: 12 th Century AD
Dimensions: 5.9" (15.0cm) high x 6.4" (16.3cm) wide
Collection: Islamic
Medium: bronze-copper alloy

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Cast, bronze-copper alloy oil lamp with zoomorphic, punched and incised arabesque decoration; body of hemispherical form with three protruding spouts, each terminating in pseudo- voluted nozzle; loop handle with bird terminal; central filling hole covered by hinged lid with bird terminal; all stands upon tall hexagonal base; inscription to shoulder reads: ??? ??? ???? ?? “there is only one God”; inscriptions to body reads: ?????? “tiller” and ????????? ???????? ?????? ??????? “And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character”; scrolling, punched vines to base; geometric motif of interlacing bands to cover. This fine oil lamp heralds from Khorasan, an historical region that today corresponds with an area in northeast Iran. In Pre-Islamic and Islamic times the region also covered parts of Central Asia and Afghanistan. At the time this piece was in use, the region formed part of an empire that stretched from Spain to the borders of India, through Persia and the Middle East and along the coast of North Africa. Great power transfers define the political vista of this vast and unwieldy empire and dominion divided between several semi-autonomous states. The Seljuk Turks have control of Khorasan. Its four major sectors, based around the cities of Nishapur, Merv, Herat and Balkh flourish as cultural centres. The Seljuks already had a strong metalwork tradition by the time they came into contact with Islam; rather than ignoring the traditions of the cultures they encountered, both Islamic and pre-Islamic, metalworkers took inspiration. Metalwork was carried to new heights during this time by the appropriation of new forms and processes. In technique as well as form and decoration, Islamic lamps perpetuated Late Roman and Byzantine traditions. The scrolling vine –vine rinceaux- to the base, volutes to the nozzle and geometric elements all derive from Byzantine art. We can also find reference to Persian traditions – transmitted to Islam following the fall of the Sassanian Empire in Iraq and Iran in ACE 651 - in the roundels and arabesque decoration. There is only one God. Calligraphy was considered the noblest of visual art forms, lending to a desire to ornament everyday objects with inscriptions. While the Seljuks spoke Farsi and a Turkic language, the use of Arabic in such a prominent position elucidates the islamization of the Seljuks and a desire to emulate preceding Arab states. To the sides, we have quotations from the Qu’ran that promote hard work and exceptional standards of behaviour. To use, the lamp would have been filled with oil – animal, fish or olive – via the central pouring hole, a wick then placed into each of the three spouts and lit, burning through the oil. It would most likely have been used within a private residence given that sanctuary lamps were more often of glass. - (JB.1255)


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