• Art of the Islamic and Indian  auction at Christies

    Sale 7843

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    13 April 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 41

    A FINE KHORASSAN SILVER INLAID BRONZE PENCASE

    NORTH EAST PERSIA, 12TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A FINE KHORASSAN SILVER INLAID BRONZE PENCASE
    NORTH EAST PERSIA, 12TH CENTURY
    Of rectangular form with hinged cover and rounded ends, the top inlaid with a central band of roundels formed of spirals enclosing lotus flowers, a roundel at each end with leafy interlace, bands above and below of similar motifs, the sides of the top with a band of floral meander, the sides of the base with a band of well drawn naskh benedictory inlaid calligraphy on a scrolling vine ground, the underside with an oval band of meandering scrolling leafy vine, the interior of the base with shaped pierced section at one end inlaid with scrolling leafy designs, the interior of the cover with a band of stylised benedictory kufic interrupted and flanked by interlace roundels, small restoration to rim, most of the inlay remaining
    10 1/8in. (26.3cm.) long


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    The inscriptions around the base read al-'izz wa al-nasr wa al-iqbal wa al-ni'am wa al-jud wa al-majd wa al-ifdal wa al-karam wa al-hilm... li sahibihi al-sa'ada wa al-salama wa tul al-'umr ma damat hamama (Glory and (God's) assistance and prosperity and (God's) grace and generosity and splendour and excellence and honour and knowledge and forbearance... happiness and well-being and lasting life to its owner as long as the dove coos).

    The kufic inscription inside the cover reads al-'izz wa al-nasr wa al-iqbal wa al-ni'am , wa al-jud wa al-majd wa al-ifdal wa al-karam (Gloral and (God's) assistance and prosperity and (God's) grace and generosity and splendour and excellence and honour).

    This pencase is closely related to a historically important pencase of identical shape and similar dimensions in the Freer Gallery of Art (Atil. E. et al.: Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art , Washington, 1985, pp. 102-106, no. 14.) The latter pencase is dated 607/1210-11 and made by Shazi al-naqqash for Majd al-Mulk al-Muzaffar, the grand vizier of the last Khwarazmshahs before the Mongol conquest in 1221. It is decorated in a slightly different manner: the inscription on the body comprises human-headed hastae, the lid comprises an inscription surrounding a long panel with complicated intertwined scrolls, and the maker's name is signed in kufic on the lid between the hinges. In contrast the present piece comprises a non-animated inscription on the body, and features two elaborate rosettes on either end of the lid flanking a panel consisting of a flower-scroll inbetween two geometric bands.

    While the layout of the decoration on the two pieces differs, details of the decorative elements and style are comparable. Gracefully bent and pointed leafs grow out of thin and delicate stems. The kufic inscriptions on both pencases consist of one short line, the letters of which comprise hastae terminating in lancet leafs. The knotted designs on both pieces are very similar. More importantly, the overall approach to the layout of the designs shows a strong "graphic" element. They were likely to have been designed by an individual capable of executing similar work for manuscript or architectural decoration in the manner of the kitabhane, the institution central to the realisation of the Timurid aesthetic in the late 14th and 15th centuries. The title of the maker of the Freer penbox who called himself naqqash, would reinforce that assumption. It can be speculated that the present penbox was made in the same artistic environment as the Freer box.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Provenance

    Anon sale in these Rooms, 14 October 1997, lot 296