The inscription on the inside is a corrupted repeat of: 'al-'izz w'al-iqbal li sahibihi'. The outside rim comprises a repeat of 'al-'izz'.
Stylistically our tray is related to a dish sold in these Rooms on October 17, 1995, lot 254, attributed to Iran during the Ilkhanid period (14th century AD). Like that one the present piece comprises a circular central field surrounded by cartouches linked by a band. In the present piece, however, there are only four cartouches and the linking band contains a corrupt naskhi inscription rather than the floral band of the previous dish. The former dish, particularly in the subject of the two birds, is much more restrained here and has partly given way to decorative elements of a more Islamic character. The birds are not the main focus of the central field, but appear merely as part of the overall complicated intertwined foilage. Such birds can be found quite ubiquitously on Iranian ceramics of the post-Mongol period, both lustre and Sultanabad wares.
Another feature of Islamic character are the hares contained within two of the four cartouches. These are not present on the previous piece. A very close comparison for these animals exists in a shallow silver dish in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (see Marshak, B.I. and Kramarovsky, M.G.: "A Silver Bowl in the Walters Art Gallery Baltimiore (Thirteenth Century Silversmiths' work in Asia Minor)", Iran, XXXI, 1993, pp. 119-126, fig. 1 a-e). To be noted here are the lions and hares with their heads turned backwards in very much the same fashion as in our piece. The cartouches themselves are lobed and not almond-shaped like ours, but they also terminate in trefoils with voluted base leafs. The piece has been dated to the last decades of the 13th century AD and connected with silver from Asia Minor, having absorbed decorative elements of Seljuq, Mongol, Byzantine and Golden Horde origin.
Our tray can be dated on stylistical grounds to the latter half of the 14th century, given its more prominent Islamic features, but clearly relates to the mainstream of Ilkhanid silver work (for further related pieces see Smirnov: Argenterie Orientale, St. Petersburg, 1909). More precise dating evidence is, however, provided by the four coins used to fasten the handles on the inside of the tray's rim. It appears that these date from the time of the founder of the Jalayrid dynasty Taj al-Din Shaykh Hasan Buzurg (ruled AH 736-757/1335-1356 AD) who was ruling from Baghdad. For comparisons see Mitchiner,M.: Oriental Coins and their Values, The World of Islam, London, 1977, p. 262, nos. 1737-1739. Like ours these coins have a central field containing inscriptions in kufic with smaller cursive inscriptions around.
As a type trays are often depicted on Ilkhanid illustrations of the Shahnameh, used not only for the display of different foods, but also of various objects (see a depiction of Bahram Gur listening to Arzu's harp in the Collection of Sadruddin Aga Khan, IR.M.1, published in Simpson, M.S.: The Illustration of an Epic, The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts, New York and London, 1979, pl. 51)
In the years following the death of Hasan Buzurg the Jalayrids advanced into Muzaffarid territory, particularly Fars province with its capital Shiraz. It is in this area where a school of metalwork had been active under the Mongols during the late 13th/early 14th centuries and where the origin of our piece might be sought.
A metallurgical analysis of this dish, performed by Dr Peter Northover of the Department of Materials, Oxford, sample nos.R1046-47, confirms the proposed dating.