Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Pierced Globe

Object Name:
Incense burner
Date:
late 13th–early 14th century
Geography:
Attributed to Syria, Damascus
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Brass; spun and turned, pierced, chased, inlaid with gold, silver, and black compound
Dimensions:
H. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm) H. with chain. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm) Diam. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
Classification:
Metal
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.2095a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 454
Designed as an incense burner, this globe once hung from a chain. Inside the hinged body is a small cup, slung on three rings (gimbals) to stabilize the burning coal or incense in the suspended container. The inscription bands do not name the object’s owner, but repeat a string of epithets lauding him.
A large number of medieval Islamic pierced-brass globes survive. Like the present example, the globes in this group are composed of two hemispheres. The walls of the hemispheres are usually decorated with inlays of metal or a black compound and perforated with small holes, usually arranged decoratively in groups corresponding to the inlaid design. Most of the globes were fitted inside with a small metal bowl attached to a set of gyroscopic rings that kept the bowl upright, whatever the position of the globe. The function of pierced globes has been the subject of some debate, and it is possible that not all of these objects had the same purpose. The smaller examples—some of which are only a few inches in diameter—may have been carried as hand warmers, with burning coal in the cup, or worn as pomanders containing perfumed substances. Larger globes, such as this one, are generally classified as incense burners, with the cup considered a receptacle for an aromatic substance. It has been argued compellingly that the cups may have held perfumed candles, which would have not only emitted a pleasing scent but also illuminated the perforations.

The designs on the two hemispheres of this globe mirror each other almost exactly. Around the rim of each, epigraphic bands alternate with sets of diamond-shaped cartouches filled with stylized vegetal motifs. A wide register of interlaced large and small circular medallions frames a Z-fret background and pierced sections with knotted openwork, vegetal motifs, or groups of confronted ducks. A smaller epigraphic band circles each hemisphere near its apex. This globe is fitted with a knob and suspension ring, but similar examples were designed without suspension fixtures so that they could roll freely on a surface. Inside, a cup is supported on gimbals, three concentric rings that pivot from their attachment point.

Ellen Kenney (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Inscription: At top and bottom in Arabic in thuluth script:
عز لمولانا الملك المالك العا / لم العادل المؤید المظفر المنصور/ المجاهد المرابط المثاغر الغازي
Glory to our lord, the king, the master, the wise / the just, the supported
[by God], the triumphant, the victorious, the defender [of the faith],
the warrior [at the frontiers], the warden [of the marches], the vanquisher
On top hemisphere, central band (same as above,
but with the following added after :(الغازي
رکن الاسلام والمسلمین
pillar of Islam and the Muslims

On lower hemisphere, central band (same as above,
with the following added after :(المسلمین
والملوك والسلاطین قاتل الکفر]ة[ داو]د؟[
the kings and the sultans, slayer of the infidels, Dawu[d?]
J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (until d. 1913; his estate 1913–17; gifted to MMA)
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Louvre Long Term Loan," April 28, 2004–April 27, 2006, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 54, ill. fig. 38 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 103, pp. 139, 154, ill. p. 154 (color).

Canby, Sheila R. "The Scented World : Incense Burners and Perfume Containers from Spain to Central Asia." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). pp. 125-126, ill. fig. 13 (color).



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