Height: 6.000 cm
Diameter: 12.900 cm
Bequeathed by John Henderson
ME OA 1878.12-30.694
Room 34: The Islamic world
From Syria, late 15th century AD
A fusion of Venetian and Middle Eastern styles
This is one of a large group of fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century inlaid brass bowls and other vessels, many bearing European shields. Since the nineteenth century they have been known as 'Veneto-Saracenic' due to their fusion of Venetian and Middle Eastern styles. It used to be thought that they were made by Muslim craftsmen working in Venice, but they are now thought to have been made in Syria for export to Europe.
The tightly-fitting lid suggests that the contents were perishable. Bowls of this type may have been used to contain incense or spices, both of which were exported to Europe via the Mamluk Empire. The 'inscriptions' around the bowl and on the lid with their complicated knotted shafts are purely ornamental, but would have given an appropriately eastern appearance, much as contemporary tins of Chinese tea have chinoiserie decoration.