Incense Burner of Amir Saif al-Dunya wa’l-Din ibn Muhammad al-Mawardi

Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn `Ali

Object Name:
Incense burner
dated A.H. 577/ A.D. 1181–82
Iran, Taybad
Bronze; cast, engraved, chased, pierced
OveralL. H. 33 1/2 in. (85.1 cm) L. 32 1/2 in. (82.6 cm) W. 9 in. (22.9 cm) L. from heel of back foot to toe of front foot: 22 in. (55.9 cm) L. from toe of front foot to tip of nose: 4 in. (10.2 cm) L. from heel of back foot to tip of taiL. 7 in. (17.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1951
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Zoomorphic incense burners were popular during the Seljuq period. This lion-shaped example is exceptional for its monumental scale, the refinement of its engraved ornament, and the wealth of information provided by the Arabic calligraphic bands inscribed on its body. These include the names of the patron and the artist, as well as the date of manufacture. The head is removable so that coal and incense could be placed inside, and the body and neck are pierced so that the scented smoke could escape. The lion certainly would have been at home in a palatial setting.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscription in Arabic in kufic script around neck and continued on chest:
    امر به الامیر العادل العالم/ سیف الدنیا والدین بن محمد/ الماوردي
    Ordered by the just and wise prince Saif al-Dunya wa’l-Din ibn Muhammad al-Mawardi

    Inscription in Arabic in kufic script on left and right bosses and boss on chest:
    السعاد ةالاقبال السلامة
    Happiness, prosperity, well-being

    Signature in Arabic in kufic script at left, on chest, and on right foot:
    عمل جعفر بن محمد بن علي سنة سبع وسبعین وخمسمائة
    Work of Ja‘far son of Muhammad son of ‘Ali in the year A.H. 577 [1181– 82 A.D.]

    The family name الماوردي al-Māwardī is written on the chest between the name of the metalworker and it is under the name of the prince so it is not clear that this word belongs to the prince as الماوردي سیف الدنیا و الدین بن محمد or belongs to the metalworker as جعفر بن محمد بن علی الماوردي the word al- Māwardī means “the rosewater saller” and it seems that family name of the france can not be a rosewater saller.

  • Provenance

    [ Khalil Rabenou, New York, until 1951; sold to MMA]

  • See also