Hemispherical Basin

high-tin bronze, cast and engraved

21.3 x 50.5cm

Unlike many vessels made using the expensive high-tin bronze  alloy, which mostly bear ring and dot or chip-cut decoration, the engraved decoration on the interior of this basin is elaborately figural. In the centre, two figures sit cross-legged on a low throne with lions’ or gryphons’ paws. The figures wear stylised Sasanian crowns and their heads are surrounded by almond-shaped haloes. Each is holding a rounded cup, apparently containing a flame. The ground is densely ring-matted. Around this composition is a bold frieze of warriors, each with a pair of lances, one of which bears a streamer, a Sasanian attribute of royalty. Their shields feature various emblems: a six- or seven-petalled rosette with two pips, Sasanian royal streamers and seven circles. At the rim is a benedictory Kufic inscription which, unusually, combines Arabic and Persian: ‘Everlasting joy and happiness in the drinking of the purple (wine)! Divine favour on your life. Consummate blessing, and perpetual grace, and well-being, and happiness, and ...’ The exterior also bears a benedictory Kufic inscription.

J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.20, p.44.