216. A Gilded and Nielloed Cast Bronze Incense-Burner

Khorassan, 11th–12th century AD
Size: 9 cm high, 8.7 cm diameter
Cast bronze, gilding, niello

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The shape of this unusual incense-burner is clearly derived from the shape of a Buddhist reliquary, familiar from pre-Islamic times throughout Afghanistan and further East. Unusually for an Islamic bronze it has remained true to the original form, and the two rings beneath the knop recall the pagoda-like finials that crown such reliquaries (see: Richard Ettinghausen, The “Wade Cup” in the Cleveland Museum of Art, its Origin and Decoration, Ars Orientalis vol. 2, 1957, figs. F and G ). A prayer in elegant Kufic calligraphy set against a niello background runs around the cover, punctuated by three circular medallions containing plant-forms. The body is decorated with a scrolling vine-pattern in niello. The knop is pierced vertically as a funnel for smoke.

(Inventory mark under the foot: MTW 328)