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pen-box

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1884,0704.85

  • Title (object)

    • pen-box
  • Description

    Pen-box. Engraved brass, inlaid with silver and copper. The sides of the pen-box are decorated with twelve roundels containing personifications of the planets in their day or night houses. Scenes along the front include the Sun in Leo (a figure with the face of the sun riding a lion); Venus in Taurus (a lute-player riding a bull); Mars in Aries (a warrior holding a sword and a severed head, riding a ram).

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1230-1250
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Width: 9 centimetres
    • Length: 36.8 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    "From Mosul, northern Iraq, AD 1230-50

    Inlaid with a verse from the Qur'an and symbols of the planets and the zodiac


    The pen-box has a long section for pens, with smaller containers at one end for ink, sand (for blotting the ink) and threads (for cleaning the reed-pens). The Arab historian Qalqashandi, claimed that large square-ended pen-boxes like this were often used by treasury scribes because they could put a supply of accounting paper in the lid. He also wrote: 'know that it is necessary for the scribe to do his utmost to adorn the pen-box, to make it excellent and to look after it.' The owner of this pen-box has chosen to adorn the inside of the lid with a finely written verse from the Qur'an (11:88): 'I desire only to set things right so far as I am able. My succour is only with God; in Him I have put my trust.'

    The sides of the box are decorated with twelve roundels containing personifications of the planets in their day or night houses. Scenes along the front include (from right to left): Mars in Aries (a warrior holding a sword and riding a ram); Venus in Taurus (a lute-player riding a bull); Mercury in Gemini (two figures holding a staff); the Moon in Cancer (a cross-legged figure holding a crescent before her face); the Sun in Leo (a figure with the face of the sun riding a lion); Mercury in Virgo ( two figures holding ears of corn)." (from Compass entry July 24, 2006)Blurton, 1997:
    Its astrological imagery is comparable to the scheme used on the Vaso Vescovali (1950.0725.1).

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  • Bibliography

    • Ward & La Niece bibliographic details
    • Blurton 1997 247 bibliographic details
    • Piotrovsky & Vrieze 1999 30 bibliographic details
    • Ward 1993 fig.62 bibliographic details
    • Barrett 1949a pls14-15b bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G34/dc13

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2016-2017 20 Oct-12 Feb, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Power & Protection Art and the Supernatural in the Islamic World
    2012 April - August, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, 'Treasures of the World’s Cultures' 2009 11 Dec-2010 10 May, Madrid, Canal de Isabel II, 'Treasures of the World’s Cultures'
    2009 1 May-20 Sep, Victoria, Royal BC Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2007 14 Sep-2 Dec, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2007 3 Feb-27 May, Taipei, National Palace Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2006 18 Mar-4 Jun, Beijing, Capital Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2005 27 Oct-2006 31 Jan, Haengso Museum, Keimyung University, Daegu, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2005 25 Jul-8 Oct, Busan Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2005 11 Apr-10 Jul, Seoul Arts Centre, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 'Treasures of the World's Cultures'
    2000 12 Jun-17 Sept, St Petersburg, The Hermitage 'In the name of the beneficent and merciful'
    1999 15 Dec-2000 24 Apr, Amsterdam, De Nieuwe Kerk Museum, 'In the name of the beneficent and merciful'
    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'
    1996 4 Jan-, New York, Guggenheim Museum, 'Africa, the Art of a Continent'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1884

  • Department

    Middle East

  • Registration number

    1884,0704.85

Pen-box. Made of engraved and copper, silver inlaid brass.

3/4: Right

Pen-box. Made of engraved and copper, silver inlaid brass.

Image description

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Object reference number: RRM10335

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