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On tripod hoof feet, the body with a band of nimbate saints in an arcade, the cover with continuous knot roundels and panels, baluster knop, plain quatrefoil for fixing of original handle
7 ½ in. (19.1 cm.) high
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, New York.
Acquired from the estate of the above December 1960.
R. Ellsworth et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: Arts of Asia and Neighboring Cultures, New York, 1993, vol III, pp. 391-2.
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is a lot where Christie’s holds a direct financial guarantee interest.
Sale room notice
Please note that the domed cover, contemporaneous with the base, could possibly have been associated at an early date rather than having been made for this particular base.

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Lot Essay

In the medieval Islamic period the technique of inlaying silver into a copper alloy body was first fully developed in the Iraqi city of Mosul. After its appearance in the first half of the thirteenth century the city’s workshops quickly developed an impressive level of technical and aesthetic refinement so that the Andalusian geographer Ibn Sa’id in AH 648/1250 AD wrote “Mosul hosts an abundance of crafts, prime among them inlaid brass vessels, which are carried from there to numerous royal courts” (quoted in James W Allan, Islamic Metalwork, the Nuhad Es-Said Collection, London, 1982, p.18). The technique was soon adopted across the Islamic Near East, with Damascus in Syria becoming a renowned centre in the later 13th and 14th centuries.
The Rockefeller incense burner belongs to a very rare subgroup of silver-inlaid brass objects that combine Islamic metalwork traditions and Christian imagery. Only twenty such items from the Ayyubid period are known today, most outstanding of which are the Freer Canteen and the d’Arenberg basin, each now in the collection of the Freer Gallery, Washington D.C. (inv. nos. F.1941.10 and F.1955.10). Among this surviving group are six incense burners. Apart from the present example only one other retains its original domed cover, an example decorated with an ogival arcade in the British Museum (,1230.679). The other four, lacking original covers, are all in Western museum collections.
The proximity of Ayyubid Syria to the Latin Crusader states explains this incense burner’s iconography. Early scholarship maintained that this unusual Christian iconography in metalwork should be seen as an extension of Syriac manuscript painting. More recent scholars have looked at the relationship between the crusader kingdoms and the Muslim polities surrounding them. This was a complex relationship, with considerable amounts of trade and artistic interaction as the crusaders transformed from external threats to semi-integrated internal political forces (Ranee A Katzenstein and Glenn D. Lowry, ‘Christian Themes in Thirteenth Century Islamic Metalwork’, Muqarnas vol.1, Leiden, 1983, p.62). A century later than the production of this incense burner the link is openly displayed. Muslim craftsmen in Damascus produced silver-inlaid brass vessels for St. Louis IX of France, Princess Elisabeth von Habsburg-Kärnten and at least three for King Hugues IV de Lusignan, ruler of Cyprus and nominally of Jerusalem.
The Ayyubid lands in the second half of the thirteenth century were a region of diverse cultural and aesthetic influences, reflecting in part the various dominions that had occupied the area, including the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, before being conquered and thus united by the Ayyubids. The great Persian poet Nizami, musing on this abundant artistic interaction, wrote, “I took up materials from every book; I bound on them the ornament of verse; More than new Histories; Jewish, Christian and Pahlavi. I chose from every book its charm, took out from every husk its grain” (Katzenstein and Lowry, op.cit., p.62).
It is fitting then that this exceptional incense burner, the product of a mediaeval multicultural society, should find its way to the desk of David Rockefeller at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, at the heart of the world’s most cosmopolitan city.

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