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The Vaso Vescovali

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Vaso Vescovali
  • Description

    A lidded bowl of high tin bronze, engraved and inlaid with silver. Decorated with signs of the zodiac, the sun and the moon, it displays a complex astrological imagery. It has twelve roundels, each containing the personification of a planet with the sign of the zodiac representing its day or night house. The figure drawing water from a well is Saturn in his night house Aquarius. The figure riding a ram is Mars in his night house Aries. The eight roundels on the lid contain personifications of the planets, including the dragon 'Jawzahr' who represents the lunar eclipse. Each figure has six arms with which to carry the emblems of their magical influences.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1200 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 18.5 centimetres
    • Height: 21.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Blurton, 1997:
    High tin bronze vessels were valued throughout the Islamic world for their golden colour. Unlike ordinary brass or bronze vessels, their high level of tin enabled them to be used for food and drink without fear of contamination from verdigris, a poisonous green patina which can develop on copper alloys such as bronze.

    The lid was not originally matched with the bowl and has been hammered in around the rim to give a closer fit which gives the vessel a cinched appearance.

    The decoration denotes the influence of Indian iconography on the multi-armed figures, which are not usual in the Islamic world.

    It was described as the Vaso Vescovali when it was originally published by Michelangelo Lanci ("Trattato delle simboliche rappresentanze Arabiche", Paris, 1845-46) with the implication that it belonged to the Vescovali family at that time. It was only acquired by The British Museum in 1950 (From Compass entry July 21, 2006).


  • Bibliography

    • Pinder-Wilson 1951 bibliographic details
    • Blurton 1997 246 bibliographic details
    • Ward 1993 fig.10, 57 bibliographic details
    • Lanci 1845-1846 vol.1, p.19-59, pl.ii-iv bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G34/dc23

  • Exhibition history

    2016, 25 April- 24 July, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Great Age of the Seljuqs
    1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
    1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
    1977 London, BM, Animals in Art

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Middle East

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: The Vaso Vescovali


COMPASS Title: The Vaso Vescovali

Image description



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Object reference number: RRM13164

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