Inkwell with Zodiac Signs

Object Name: Inkwell

Date: early 13th century

Geography: Attributed to probably Iran

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Brass; cast, inlaid with silver, copper, and black compound

Dimensions: H. 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm)
H. w/o lid: 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm)
Diam. 4 9/16 in. (11.6 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1959

Accession Number: 59.69.2a, b


The inscriptions on the lid of this inkwell convey generic blessings for the owner, and are "animated," that is, parts of letters are transformed into animal or human figures. The base of the inkwell is decorated with signs of the Zodiac, including Cancer (al-saratan, "the crab") with its Planetary Lord the Moon. This association is usually emphasized in images of the Cancer crab, whose claws hold a disk with the crescent Moon.