This bowl is inscribed with benedictory phrases. These include al-'izz wa'l nasr wa'l-iqbal , al-nima (?) wa'l-majd wa'l-jadd wa , al ... wa'l-iqbal wa'l..., 'Glory and victory and prosperity and [God's] grace and power and splendour and good fortune and ... prosperity and ...'.
This large silver bowl is a remarkable survival. Very little silver remains from the mediaeval period because, unlike inlaid bronzes, it was so easy to melt down and recycle into a vessel of a more fashionable form. Most silver that has survived is small, portable items that have been discovered in archaeological contexts. By way of contrast, this heavy bowl gives every indication of never having been buried. The surface is thus remarkably well preserved.
The decoration is notable for its sureness of strong line, which is unlike that found on most silver vessels of the 14th century which tend to have a somewhat sketchy drawing style. This effect is enhanced here by the very strong cross hatching used in the background of the figural roundels, which is very much at variance with the light ring-pouncing of almost all the silver and gold vessels excavated in Central Asia and now in the Hermitage (The Treasures of the Golden Horde, exhibition catalogue, Saint Petersburg, 2000). Only on one small object in that catalogue can one find a similar strength of line, coupled with cross-hatching of the background of some areas, a silver comb and case attributed to "Golden horde, Crimea or Asia Minor, second half of 14th century" (The Treasures of the Golden Horde, op.cit., cat 134-135, pp.89 and 247-8).
One other item in the Hermitage shares the same strength of engraving, a massive 70cm. diameter tinned copper tray formerly in the collection of Count Alexis Bobrinksy (Iran and the Hermitage, exhibition catalogue, Saint Petersburg, 2004, no.123, p.116, English caption p.248.) It is catalogued as being Iranian, late 14th century. Our bowl and the Bobrinsky tray have a great number of details in common. Both have panels containing figures, wearing Sassanian-like crowns, (on the tray they are harpies) on a strongly hatched ground. These Sassanian crowns appear in a number of other Ilkhanid contexts, correctly placed on the head of Bahram Gur in miniatures and tiles, for example (Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni (eds.), The Legacy of Genghis Khan, exhibition catalogue, New York and Los Angeles, figs 108 and 110 for example). The cursive script used on both our bowl and the Bobrinsky tray is very similar, slightly angular, with pointed tips top left of almost every looped letter such as waw. Some of the sequences of words are similar, and noticeably different from the more usually encountered formulae. The diaper patterns are also very similar; those in the large cartouches at alternate with the inscriptions on the present bowl for instance are a doubling of one of the two alternating designs in the outer border of the Bobrinsky tray. The tray however has a horror vacui, filling every space with design, while here there is a far better sense of space.
The roundels linked by a simple band of decoration can be found on many 14th century metal items including a silver tray sold in these Rooms 25 April 1997, lot 267, a tray that was unusually thick gauge metal, which was also typified by very strong engraving and which had very similar terminals to the medallions linked by the band. The coins used to secure the handles of that silver tray, assuming that they were original, enables the tray to be dated to the reign of the founder of the Jalayrid dynasty, Taj al-Din Shaykh Hasan Buzurg (r.1335-1356 AD), indicating a date either during his reign or, very probably, shortly after its end.
Or bowl does not come from the same area as the Jalayrid tray, but it does almost certainly come from the same centre as the Bobrinsky example. Whether this is within the area controlled by the Ilkhans, or whether it was from their northern neighbours' territory, the Golden Horde, a date of the second half of the 14th century seems certain.