Height: 22.700 cm
Diameter: 54.000 cm
ME OA 1851.1-4.1
Room 34: The Islamic world
Brass basin inlaid with silver and gold
Mamluk dynasty, about AD 1320-41
From Cairo, Egypt or Damascus, Syria
Made for the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad
Large basins like this were among the most prestigious of the inlaid brass vessels produced by Mamluk metalworkers. They were used primarily for washing: the swimming fish circling the base inside is particularly appropriate decoration. Contemporary historians also describe them being used to collect money or gifts at weddings and other festivals.
The bold inscription on the exterior and interior of this basin contains the name and titles of the Mamluk sultan al-Nasir Muhammad (1293-1341), and his epigraphic blazon, reading 'Glory to our Lord the Sultan' appears in the small roundels which punctuate the decoration. The chinoiserie style of the floral design in the large roundels demonstrates the influence of textiles and other objects imported into the Mamluk Empire from Mongol Iran and even China itself.
The basin was one of the first examples of Islamic metalwork to be acquired by the British Museum, in 1851.
R. Ward, Islamic metalwork (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)
R. Ward, S. La Niece, D. Hook and R. White, 'Veneto-Saracenic metalwork: an anlaysis of the bowls and incense burners in the British Museum' in Trade and discovery: the scien, British Museum Occasional Paper 109 (London, Department of Scientific Research, British Museum, 1995)